The rugby cranes are back in Hong Kong this year, hoping to attain core status World Sevens series, a goal that proved a bite too much to chew last year.
The rugby cranes have been drawn against Japan, Chile and Georgia in Pool E for the Qualifier series. But who are your reigning African champions’ opponents and how did they end up in Hong Kong?
Japan are the most imminent threat in the group for the Cranes with quite the reputation. On top of 6 Rugby world cup appearances, they will be hosting the 2020 Olympics. The Asian nation have actually won Hong Kong Sevens before, in 1999. They played in the 2014-2015 HSBC World Series after winning the Qualifier in 2014, beating Uruguay, Trinidad & Tobago and the Cook Islands in the group stages. They met Tunisia, Russia and Italy later in the knockouts of whom they disposed. Their best performance at the HSBC World Series was when they clinched 6th place in Wellington in New Zealand when they lost to the hosts in the 5th place playoff.
In the Asia Rugby Sevens Series held last year in Sri Lanka, on 14th-15th October 2017, they emerged runners-up after losing to a select Hong Kong side in the final. Prior to the final, they lost only one game in the group, to Hong Kong. They were 28-7 winners against Malaysia, 29-05 winners against Philippines before they lost 19-07 to a select Hong Kong side. They made easy work of China in the quarter finals winning 26-12, before they beat South Korea 15-10 to advance to the final, which they lost 19-14 to Hong Kong. Kosuke Hashino emerged top scorer for Japan in Sri Lanka, crossing for four tries and converting nine times.
Chile are the second of three opponents Uganda has to play against with hopes of continuing to the knockout stages of the Qualifier in Hong Kong. Before they qualified for the 2018 World Cup, the South American side had made one world cup appearance in 2001. They took part in the World Sevens Series in USA in 2008 and lost the Shield final 24-12 to Australia.
They qualified for San Francisco and Hong Kong by virtue of points accumulated in the Sudamerica Rugby championship which was played over two legs in the space of two weekends. They came up second to a select invitational South African side in the Punta Del Este Sevens after losing 21-05 in the final. Prior to the final, they had won their three group games i.e 21-12 against an invitational Germany team, 19-10 against the tournament’s eventual winners South Africa, and 33-12 against Paraguay. They beat Uruguay and Germany in the knockouts before South Africa put a stop to their winning in the final. The Punta Del Este Sevens occurred on 6-7 January 2018.
During the Vina Del Mars Sevens a week later, they beat Canada 38-00, Argentina 17-15 before falling 22-19 to Germany. They lost their ensuing quarter final tie 14-7 to France. Owing to that loss, they were relegated to the 5th place playoff which they lost 14-07 to Argentina. Their further demotion saw them face Brazil in the 7th place playoff whom they beat 26-12.
Georgia are the other team that the defending Africa Sevens champions will face while in Hong Kong. They are probably the least pronounced of Uganda’s opponents as they have never been a core series team.
While everyone in Pool E will be in San Francisco for the world cup, Georgia will not be present. Nonetheless, they have played in 4 World Cups and their best performance came in 2001 when they won the Plate. They have accumulated 24 games at the World Cup stage, winning only 7 of those, drawing one and losing a whopping 16.
Uganda is the only team in the group without world cup experience but with back-to-back experience on the World Series stage in Dubai and Cape Town as an invitational side in 2016 and 2017.