The pools and fixtures have been announced for the IRB Women’s Hong Kong 7s Challenge Cup, to take place on Friday-Saturday, March 23-24 at the Hong Kong Football Club and Hong Kong Stadium.
Pool A: Canada, Brazil, Russia
Last year’s winner Canada is the current Challenge Cup holders and takes the top seed into the tournament as the reigning Hong Kong champion. Canada is still riding high after a 14-5 win over the USA in Las Vegas this February, a championship that marked Canada’s fifth consecutive major title since 2011.
Brazil will give Canada their best game of the day. After failing to win a game in Dubai, the team surprised the field on day two of the Women’s International Invitational in Las Vegas, rallying to wins against the Canadian Maple Leafs and USA’s Stars & Stripes. Russia defeated Hong Kong for seventh in last year’s Hong Kong 7s and rounds out competition in pool A.
Pool B: England, China, Japan
England should exit as pool B’s top seed, but will have to get past China and Japan before securing their spot in the Cup semifinals, which will be contested inside Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday. Although the Roses didn’t compete in last month’s Las Vegas tournament, a young squad battled Canada to a 26-7 final’s loss in Dubai. Should England advance to the final four, they’ll play the winner of pool A and have the opportunity for some revenge against Canada.
Japan was present in Las Vegas, and although the team struggled to put up points, they caught the top sides off guard with their brand of shifty running and sure tackling. China defeated Japan for fifth place at last year’s Hong Kong event, so expect another heated match in 2012.
Pool C: Australia, Netherlands, Hong Kong
The tournament is excited to see Australia back in Hong Kong, and they’re favored in pool C. The 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens champions are playing in arguably the most difficult pool with the Netherlands and Hong Kong, but should they exit pool play on top, they’ll face the winners of pool D in the semifinals. The USA is in pool D, and the last time the two saw each other was in Dubai’s third-place match, which Australia won 22-5.
The Netherlands finished third in Hong Kong last year, but haven’t showcased the tall, speedy athletes as in years past. Hong Kong is always a threat and actually upset the Netherlands during pool play at last year’s games. A number of international players compliment the roster, including former Twin Cities Amazon and Midwest Thunderbird Colleen Tjosvold.
Pool D: USA, Spain, Tunisia
The Eagles sit atop pool D and are joined by Spain and Tunisia. As previously mentioned, the USA were Las Vegas finalists against Canada a few weeks ago, and will have another month of residency under their belts when they hit the ground in Hong Kong. Not all of the 7s professionals made the cut, but Jill Potter, Jane Paar and Kimber Rozier graduated from the Stars & Stripes developmental squad to join the team in Hong Kong.
Spain will provide the USA their biggest challenge, having won the plate at Dubai 7s, while Africa representative Tunisia will rely on an element of surprise.
The pool winners will only play two games on day one, while the rest of the field will continue through the placing rounds on Friday. The plate final will be played inside Hong Kong Stadium Friday evening, while the Cup semifinals and final will be integrated into the men’s stadium fixtures on Saturday.