14 Jan 2024 By May Ng

Asian sides on showcase in new Melrose Shield Competition at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens

 In its final staging in the iconic Hong Kong Stadium before a move to the new Kai Tak Sports Park stadium in 2025, the renowned Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens returns to its roots in welcoming teams from across Asia to the world’s biggest rugby party from 5-7 April 2024.

With the change to the new HSBC SVNS format, which maintains a laser focus on the 12 men’s and 12 women’s international teams playing on the current world series, Hong Kong China Rugby (HKCR) will return to its proud tradition of showcasing the best of Asian sevens by hosting men’s and women’s triangulars, entitled the Melrose Shield competitions, this April.

The Hong Kong Sevens has a long and proud history of featuring the top men’s teams in Asian sevens and the 2024 Melrose Shield men’s competition will be no different, featuring the sevens teams of China, Japan, and hosts Hong Kong, China. The women’s Melrose Shield tournament will feature China, Hong Kong, China and Thailand.

The competitions will take the format of a six-match, round-robin tournaments interspersed throughout the three-day Hong Kong Sevens that will keep fans on the edge of their seats, while also returning Asian rugby to the fore of the world’s most famous Sevens tournament.

In recognition of their shared global sevens legacies, Hong Kong China Rugby and Melrose RFC, the birthplace of Sevens in Scotland, will exchange trophies for their respective famed rugby sevens tournaments.  The trophies for the men’s and women’s teams in Hong Kong will be named the Melrose Shields, while the Hong Kong Shield will be presented to the shield winner of the U18s Sevens competition at Melrose with the Jim Telfer Cup already awarded to the tournament champions.

“On behalf of Melrose RFC and the Melrose Sevens, I am delighted, that as the home of rugby sevens we are able to donate ‘The Melrose Shields’ to the two new competitions in Hong Kong, as a mark of our support and gratitude to Hong Kong China Rugby, which has done so much to promote and grow our wonderful game of rugby sevens in Asia and beyond,” said Mr Phil Morris, Tournament Director of Melrose Rugby Limited.

Hong Kong and Japan are perennial participants dating back to the first Hong Kong Sevens in 1976, while China joined the Hong Kong Sevens party in 1998 and will be making their first appearance in the stadium since 2012.  In the women’s competition, Thailand will feature in a Hong Kong Sevens weekend for the first time in the tournament’s 47-year history.

New Zealand vs Hong Kong during Day 1 of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2023 at The Hong Kong Stadium, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on 31 March 2023, Hong Kong SAR, China. Photo by : Chris Wong / Ike Images

After Hong Kong, China’s men’s seven edged Japan in the final minute for Asian Games gold last September, Japan turned the tables in similar fashion at November’s Olympic qualifiers – setting up an enticing decider at Asia Rugby’s most historic sevens tournament.

Both sides will discount China at their peril, after they beat Japan in Olympic qualifier pool play, and pushed Hong Kong to the limit in an 19-12 semi-finals loss.

All of the Melrose Shield teams will relish the opportunity for a competitive hit-out in front of 40,000 cheering fans in Hong Kong.

For five of the six sides, the Melrose Shield competitions will also offer an important competitive opportunity for their efforts to qualify for a full-time spot-on tour via the World Rugby HSBC Challenger Series 2024.  The Challenger Series includes Hong Kong and Japan in the men’s bracket – and all three women’s teams, against global challengers in three tournaments starting this month in Dubai (12-14 January).

The top four teams after the Series will compete in the promotion and relegation play-off at the HSBC SVNS Grand Final in Madrid (31 May-2 June), alongside the bottom four teams from HSBC SVNS 2024.

The best four top teams from the Grand Final will earn the right to compete in every stop of the HSBC SVNS World Series, including the Hong Kong Sevens in 2025.

“We are looking forward to the Melrose Shield competition at the Stadium this April,” said Hong Kong, China Men’s Sevens coach Jevon Groves.

“The competition with our two top rivals in Asia in Japan and China will be excellent preparation for the Olympic repechage in June, and another important competitive opportunity for us as we target reaching the HSBC SVNS Grand Final,” he added.

China will have a point to prove after being forced to the international repechage by Japan in the final of the Olympic qualifiers, while Thailand will be out to reverse the trend of a resurgent Hong Kong, China women’s seven beating them for bronze in both the Asian Games and the Olympic Qualifiers.

“The team are excited to be appearing inside the Stadium once again during Hong Kong Sevens weekend, and I am also looking forward to coaching them at one of the world’s great rugby occasions,” said new coach Andy Vilk, who was part of England’s cup-winning squad in Hong Kong in 2006.

“The support from the crowds they received last April has helped build their self-belief and fuelled our progress at the Asian Games and at the Olympic Qualifier. The girls are hungry for more competitive opportunities and games against China and Thailand who are both participating in the women’s Challenger Series will be excellent preparation for us as a squad,” he added.

Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens tickets can be purchased via the official HKCR ticketing platform: CATHAY/HSBC HONG KONG SEVENS | HK Sevens. For more information on the Cathay /HSBC Hong Kong Sevens please visit: www.hksevens.com.