S'pore Sevens will get bigger and better
Irish legend O'Driscoll backs the 7s' game to grow round the world
The 42nd edition of the Hong Kong 7s takes place this weekend and once again, top-class sport will mix it up with fanfare and theatre in the stands for a truly unique atmosphere which has always been synonymous with the event.
With the HSBC Rugby Sevens Series now firmly part of the annual calendar, though, the storied Hong Kong event has some competition, with the Singapore leg of the series proving a hit last year.
Held at the National Stadium, the inaugural HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens saw the irrepressible Kenyans stun Fiji in the final to end a wonderful weekend of rugby.
Once again, the Hong Kong event will be followed by the Singapore tournament next weekend.
While Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll believes Hong Kong's tournament is still the crown jewel of the series, he predicts the Singapore weekend will be a growing presence on the calendar.
Speaking to The New Paper in a phone interview from Hong Kong yesterday, O'Driscoll said: "Hong Kong is where teams want to win the most because of the prestige that surrounds it.
"Singapore is in its second year and I'm sure the participation and numbers will be much bigger.
"Singapore is a great example of rugby sevens growing into a market that isn't synonymous with rugby."
Despite being one of the best players in the history of rugby union, O'Driscoll, who is the HSBC ambassador for the Rugby Sevens Series, is an avid supporter of the sevens version of the game and believes it is vital for the growth of the sport.
A former outside centre who amassed 133 caps for Ireland, O'Driscoll said: "I think sevens lends itself to developing new markets like Singapore, and getting into China and America in the future.
"Sevens was also essential in making rugby an Olympic sport.
"I anticipate it will be an even greater success in the 2020 Games in Tokyo."
He believes series leaders South Africa will be favourites to win both in Hong Kong and Singapore.
He said: "It's hard to look beyond the Springboks because they've been in peak condition.
"South Africa have won four of the six events so far, and the reason they're playing so well is that a lot of the players are in really good form.
"Players such as Roscko Speckman and Chris Dry have been exceptional for South Africa.
"You'd have to think that the Springboks will be in the semi-finals or final and are the ones to beat this weekend."
The former British and Irish Lions captain sees England as the Springboks' biggest threat.
He said: "England have been following South Africa closely, winning in Cape Town, as well as in Vancouver.
"Dan Norton has been doing really well for England and I think they have a good chance to do very well this year, not only in Hong Kong and Singapore, but the whole series."