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Forget the World Rugby ranking, forget Vancouver, forget Singapore – the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens has a status that exists above and beyond any measuring device, according to celebrated coach Ben Ryan, who led Fiji to Olympic gold in 2016.
The Englishman said he understood why the Vancouver Sevens – which was held from March 9-10 – was given top ranking by World Rugby, with the family-oriented Singapore event rated second best among the 10 venues for the men’s HSBC World Sevens Series.
However, Ryan described Hong Kong as the “soul” of world sevens and it is the tournament every player dreams of taking part in at least once in their careers.
“When you talk about Hong Kong, it kind of doesn’t have a score,” he told the South China Morning Post. “It is immeasurable. And therefore the ranking is not important. [Hong Kong] is the soul of sevens and the tournament everyone looks forward to.
“If you ask any single player in the World Series, name one tournament … you’re only going to get selected for one tournament all year, which one? Every single one of them will, I’m sure, all say Hong Kong.”
In February, Singapore media unveiled an in-house report by World Rugby, detailing the governing body’s best-rated tournaments on the circuit based on nine categories, which included facilities and player services.
Vancouver, one of the most popular tournaments on the circuit, was narrowly ahead of the Singapore Sevens, with the Hong Kong Sevens – disadvantaged by limited facilities at its So Kon Po home – rated fifth. World Rugby said it was not an official ranking and the data was meant only for in-house use.
Ryan said Vancouver, graced by Aquaman lead actor Jason Momoa this year – had the advantage of being held one week after the Las Vegas Sevens, whose Sam Boyd Stadium is narrow and will no longer be the venue for the USA leg of the series.
“It’s great that World Rugby is getting feedback from the players and I know why Vancouver is number one,” said Ryan, who is an ambassador for rugby sponsor HSBC. “It is very different going from Las Vegas to Vancouver. Vegas is a very tough place to play.
“You’re going to the fresh air and mountains of Vancouver and a brilliant hotel and a very, very enthusiastic Canadian Rugby Union who don’t get a chance to host many international rugby events.
“The stadium is awesome and the city is amazing. So, I know why Vancouver is number one.”
Hong Kong is the pioneer for the global sevens circuit and has consistently generated the best crowds among all the 10 venues. The rich history of the Hong Kong Sevens also makes it the “Wimbledon” of world sevens in terms of tradition – something no other venue can match.
Ryan, though, said the Hong Kong Rugby Union must continue to make improvements amid rapid progress made by other tournaments.
“No one should rest on their laurels and Hong Kong should look to improve and make it better,” he said. “But they have got the blue riband event and that’s not going to change.”
The Hong Kong union is eagerly waiting the completion of the city’s new, 50,000-capacity stadium at the Kai Tak Sports Park, which is slated to open in 2023.
The new venue would offer the kind of off-field facilities, such as a training stadium, that would help Hong Kong improve player services.
SOURCE: SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST/PACNEWS
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