The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has officially launched the 'biggest ever' Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in the 38-year history of the tournament.
In 2013 Hong Kong welcomes 28 teams to its famous Sevens, which this year stretches to 70 matches across the three days.
Twenty-three of the 28 teams will also compete in the men's competition at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June, with only the Philippines from the Moscow draw not on show.
Sixteen of the teams in Hong Kong (the current 15 core teams and Asian champions, Hong Kong) will compete in the main competition, while 12 regional qualifiers will look to keep alive their hopes of gaining core team status on the 2013/14 Series by finishing in the top four of their competition and book a place in the promotion / relegation play-off finale in London in May.
Of those 12 sides, Jamaica and Brazil are set to make their Hong Kong debuts, becoming the 52nd and 53rd nations to compete in Hong Kong.
Conor O'Malley, coach of Jamaica, said: "The excitement the guys shared with me when they heard that we were going to Hong Kong was that this is like their World Cup. And some of them even compared it with going to the Olympics, so it is really a big thing for them. We would normally have 17 players trying out for the team but this year we've had 37 wanting to be a part of this team. They are in good spirits and very excited to be here."
As Asian champions, Hong Kong line up in the main 16-team competition with matches against Fiji, Canada and Spain. Their coach, Dai Rees, said: "It's a fantastic opportunity for us and we are in with the big boys. It's great for the local support and it's great for Asian rugby. I was talking with Serevi recently and he told me it is the best time to get Fiji, first game. I'm not so sure about that, but we will be looking forward to it. They've only got three players who've played in Hong Kong before, so who knows?"
With the most countries participating, the Hong Kong event has also attracted more live broadcast takers than ever before with 23 airing live coverage in 144 countries, a new record for a single round of the Series.
After five rounds of the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series there have been five different winners. Fiji won the opener in Australia; Samoa claimed the cup in Dubai; New Zealand triumphed in South Africa; England won in New Zealand and South Africa took the USA Sevens in Las Vegas.
As the only side to have reached all five Cup quarter-final rounds, New Zealand lie first in the standings on 96 points followed by South Africa (73), Samoa (71), Fiji (66), France (59) and Kenya (57).
The Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens takes place on 22-24 March, followed a week later by round 7, the Tokyo Sevens on 30-31 March.
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