2009 Hong Kong East Asian Games Rugby Sevens Competition Set for Kick Off
IOC President Jacques Rogge to present Gold Medal to Champions
[Hong Kong, December 4 2009]: The last top-flight Asian sevens action of the year is set to kick off tomorrow with the Rugby Sevens competition at the East Asian Games 2009 in Hong Kong. It is the first ever multi-sports Games to be held in Hong Kong and fittingly for the home of the legendary Hong Kong Sevens the first East Asian Games to feature Rugby as a competition sport.
The East Asian Games is open to nine countries and territories in the region including hosts Hong Kong, China; China; Chinese Taipei; Guam; Japan; Korea; DPR Korea; Macau, China and Mongolia.
The Rugby Sevens competition promises to be a cracker as the teams participating represent the elite teams in Asian sevens. Five of the six men’s teams hold the top five spots in Asian Sevens while three of the top five women’s sevens teams in Asia are taking part.
With the inception of the Asian Rugby Football Union’s (ARFU) new Asian Rugby Sevens Series in 2009, the men’s teams enter the competition with more match seasoning and more head to head experience than at any time in the 42-year history of ARFU.
Adding to the excitement, the organisers of the East Asian Games have announced that Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, will attend the Rugby Sevens competition and present the Gold medal to the winning men’s team. The presence of Count Rogge is indicative of Rugby Sevens’ status as the world’s newest Olympic Sport with its inclusion into the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil.
Japan’s men’s team is the heavy gold medal favourite after finishing top of the table on the Asian Rugby Sevens Series. Japan finished with a silver and gold medal from the two ranking events in the series’ first year, (Shanghai and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia), and also won the Sri Lanka Sevens in November. Their fine performance on the series places them as the current number one in both sevens and fifteens rugby in Asia.
Runners-up on the series Korea won the historic first Asian Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Shanghai, beating Japan in the final. Korea is benefiting from a cohesive squad that features many of its key fifteen aside national team stars like hard-charging No. 8 Han Hun Kyu who promises to be a fan favourite with his impressive pace for a big man and his trademark throwback headgear.
The third place team in the Asian series is the hosts Hong Kong, who finished with a bronze medal in Shanghai and reached the final in Kota Kinabalu before bowing out to Japan. Hong Kong has used the series and their appearance at the World Games and Singapore Cricket Club Sevens to identify some promising young players.
The home side has beaten all of its competitors on the series this year and will be hoping that vociferous support from the over 12,000 strong crowd will propel them to a historic first ever Team Gold medal for the Hong Kong SAR in the East Asian Games.
Captained by Jeff Wong Chun Kiu and lead by former Wales Sevens coach Dai Rees, the local side will be looking to go one better than its silver medal performance in Malaysia this weekend.
National Coach Rees said, “We are entering the competition in better shape than any tournament we have played in this year. There is a real belief we can medal and do something special for Hong Kong by winning a team gold.”
“Our preparation went well,” says captain Wong, Chun Kiu, “The team has been training hard and we are hopeful for a gold. If we manage to play like we train we won’t be far off.”
“Personally, I am deeply honoured to captain the team on this ooccasion,” added Wong, “If we bring gold home, I think rugby will become even more popular in Hong Kong and a lot more young kids and students will take up the sport. I can promise that we will do our very best.”
China and Chinese Taipei are also threats to break through to the medal podium on any given occasion. Both teams enter the competition with veteran sides. China will be lead by the inspirational Zhang Zhiqiang, a local favourite from his many Hong Kong Sevens appearances, while Chinese Taipei will be captained by long-time skipper Wang Kuo Feng.
The East Asian Games represents a unique bookend for Chinese Taipei as they started their sevens campaign back in July with the hosting of the World Games in Kaohsiung where they finished as the best performing Asian team overall.
In both the men’s and women’s competitions, the teams from the island of Guam, known locally as “the Rock”, can be counted on to punch above their weight and competitors will overlook them at their peril.
In the four-team women’s competition, China will run out as the clear favourites after their inspirational Bowl championship at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009, a performance which they followed with an undefeated showing at the Asian Women’s Sevens championships in June in Pattaya, Thailand, to rank as the top women’s side in Asia. Japan and Hong Kong will battle for the spot against China in the final. The Rugby Sevens competition at the Hong Kong 2009 East Asian Games will take place on Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6, 2009 at the Hong Kong Stadium. Matches are from 10.00 to 16.00 on Saturday and 11.30 to 17.30 on Sunday. For more information including live results please visit: www.2009eastasiangames.hk