Asian Games rugby sevens gold medalists Hong Kong will be outright favourites to clinch the solitary regional berth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, especially with arch-rivals Japan automatically qualifying as host nation.
Hong Kong, who defeated Japan 14-0 to win their first-ever rugby sevens gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, will heave a sigh of relief that the Brave Blossoms will not feature in the Asia Rugby Men’s Sevens qualifiers for 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be played in Incheon, South Korea from November 23-24.
Japan have been the last stumbling block for Hong Kong over the years. The hurdle was only crossed last September in Jakarta when Hong Kong battled through to a memorable victory.
With only one place open for Asia – six berths are reserved for the continental champions – Hong Kong will fancy their chances of winning direct entry to the Tokyo Olympics in the absence of Japan. When rugby sevens made its debut at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Asia was represented by Japan who progressed to the bronze medal match where they lost to South Africa 54-11.
With Olympic qualification being the top priority, the 2019 Asia Rugby Sevens Men’s Series will take a back seat. The three-legged tournament will however provide the ideal build-up for all the teams as they pursue their Olympic dreams.
The first leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series will kick off on August 31-September 1 in Incheon, the second leg on September 14-15 in Huizhou, China, and the third and final leg in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from September 28-29.
The Women’s Olympic qualifiers for Asia follow a similar pattern. There will be a separate Olympic qualifying competition – to be held in Guangzhou, China on November 9 – preceded by the Asia Rugby Sevens Women’s Series to be played side by side with the men’s events on the same dates and venues. China are strong favourites to win a ticket to Tokyo.
Like at the Rio Olympics, only 12 teams will take part in each of the men’s and women’s rugby sevens competition. In the men’s tournament, the 12 teams will comprise: the top four teams at the end of the 2019 HSBC World
Rugby Sevens Series; the six continental champions; hosts Japan and the final berth going to the winner of a 12-team repechage tournament.
The repechage tournament will include two teams each from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America. Teams that have already qualified – Continental champions and the top four in the World Sevens
Series – are not eligible to take part in the repechage event.
The Women’s Olympic qualifiers will include the top four from the World Rugby Women’s Sevens World Series getting automatic berths; the six Continental champions; hosts Japan and the last berth going to the winners
of a repechage tournament.
As far as the Hong Kong men’s team is concerned, their best chance of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics will be by winning the regional competition in November. Fail to do that, and they will face stiffer competition from other regions like Europe and Africa.