The full line-up of teams taking part in the 2000 Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens was confirmed today with the announcement that England have accepted an invitation to take part in the world's premier rugby sevens tournament.
The inclusion of England, who last appeared in Hong Kong during the World Cup Sevens in 1997, means that all 24 places in the event, which takes place at the Hong Kong Stadium on March 24, 25 and 26, have been allocated.
"We are delighted that the RFU have agreed to send an England team to Hong Kong this year, especially as we understand this will be their debut in the new World Sevens Series," said Peter Duncan, Chairman of the HKRFU.
"England have told us they want to assemble a competitive squad for our event and I'm sure the fans will be looking forward to the renewal of the traditional northern-southern hemisphere rivalries."
The Hong Kong event continues to attract the cream of world rugby. Seven out of the eight nations that reached the quarter finals of the 1999 Rugby World Cup will be coming to Hong Kong this year, including the eventual winners, Australia, and the three other semi-finalists - France, New Zealand and South Africa.
Sevens specialists Fiji will also be back again to defend their 1999 Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens crown along with Samoa, their neighbours and great rivals from the Pacific, who won in 1993 and were losing finalists in 1998.
Apart from England and France, Europe's chances of lifting the silverware rest with current Five Nations champions Scotland along with Ireland, Italy and last year's popular debutants in Hong Kong, Croatia.
Argentina, Canada and the USA will represent the Americas, while Asia's hopes will rest on teams from China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Last, but by no means least, the Arabian Gulf will be making a very welcome comeback in 2000.
An added incentive for the teams this year is the inclusion of Hong Kong in the IRB's new World Sevens Series. New Zealand and Fiji have been keenly contesting and sharing the major spoils in the early rounds and will be desperate to do well in Hong Kong where the extra prize money and series points will really mean there is everything to play for.
The Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens is the only event in the series where 24 teams will take part - and this is being recognised with extra points for the eventual winners. The prize pool of US$150,000 is also easily the largest on the world circuit with the cup winners set to receive US$100,000. The losing cup finalists will pocket US$25,000 and the two defeated semi-finalists will receive US$12,500 each.
The 2000 Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Rugby Sevens will be a celebration of 25 years of seven-a-side rugby in Hong Kong," said Mr Duncan. "We'll be announcing more news in the coming weeks but you can be sure there will be an extra touch of sparkle this year as we celebrate our special anniversary. These are the Silver Sevens."
Tickets for the event - which will be held in the spectacular Hong Kong Stadium on March 24, 25 and 26 - went on sale to the public on January 26. The superb range of official souvenir apparel has also been launched and will be available at a number of outlets in the coming weeks.