The Hong Kong leg brings to mind some of the best memories of the IRB Sevens Series which is now contested by the best teams from Europe, Africa, Australia/Oceana, Americas and the Asian continents.
A few days ago Hong Kong, as in the past, became the preferred destination of all teams with Sri Lanka,too, getting an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in the global rugby world. Too bad the islanders didn’t make the best use of this golden opportunity and suffered defeats at the hand of Hong Kong (31-5), Chile (38-0) and Namibia (25-14), in a game which the islanders looked the better team. The Sri Lankans contested the qualification tournament and overall didn’t make the impact nor the grade to be seriously considered for future IRB world rugby tournaments.
This is an era where even the Sevens game is undergoing drastic changes. According to the media arm of the IRB, the Sevens game is now being modified to make it more compatible with the 15-a-side version of the game so that it can be better used as a tool to promote rugby union.
Fiji stamped their signature in rugby sevens in clinical style when they dismantled South Africa 22-0 in the Cup Competition final. They not only beat one of the leading teams that has made every Cup Championship final in the series, but also underscored what an achievement it is to win the Hong Kong Leg of the tournament which is played in a carnival atmosphere.
Fiji’s Kalione Nasoko was the man to watch in the final. Being just 26-years old he played like a pro and helped Fiji stay in second place in the points table which is currently headed by South Africa. England are third and are followed by New Zeland (4th) and the USA (5th).
The ten leg tournament has never been so eagerly contested and the Singapore Leg (Which was the stop after Hong Kong) produced an unlikely winner in Canada who went on to beat USA in the Cup Championship final. To be frank, nobody expected a North America final as fancied teams like Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa crashed out after the quarter final stage of the tournament. What Canada and the USA underscored through their performances was the thinking that a team has ‘to be at the top and also back it up’.
The next stop in the series is Paris and giant killers Canada are pooled along with South Africa, Scotland and the Asian Powerhouse Japan in Pool A for the next leg.
The Cherry Blossoms have done their part to keep Asia’s name in the world map of rugby. Japan is an inspirational side. It has showed the way to all other teams by opening the doors for expatriates to wear the national jersey by meeting the IRB qualifying regulations.
Other Asian teams like Hong Kong and South Korea too have come up and earned some slots in the ten-leg series IRB Sevens Series. A team like Sri Lanka has so much to pick from these teams and move forward in rugby sevens. Till then Sri Lanka must be satisfied with the victories its players can produce in the Asian Sevens Circuit which is scheduled later this year.