The draw for the Hong Kong Sevens tournament has been announced, with IRB Series pace-setters New Zealand alongside the USA, France and Kenya.
The draw took place at Hysan Place in Hong Kong and also included the core team pre-qualifier draw alongside the main 16-team competition which features the 15 core sides and Asian Sevens Series champions and hosts Hong Kong.
The hosts will play matches with Spain, Fiji and Canada in Pool D, while USA Sevens champions South Africa meet World Cup Sevens champions Wales, Argentina and Australia in Pool A.
Current Series leaders New Zealand were drawn alongside USA, France and Kenya in Pool D, while Samoa, Scotland, England and Portugal make up Pool C.
So far this season, five different teams have won the five tournaments. Fiji won the Series opener in Australia, Samoa lifted the Dubai Sevens title, New Zealand won in South Africa, England won in Wellington and South Africa were crowned champions at the most recent tournament in Las Vegas.
As the Series heads into Hong Kong, New Zealand top the table with 96 points, ahead of South Africa (76), Samoa (71) and Fiji (66).
With the addition of the core team pre-qualifier, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens remains the largest tournament on the HSBC SWS with 28 teams.
The 2013 tournament marks the largest field ever hosted in the 38-year history of the Hong Kong Sevens and the first increase in the number of participating teams since the 24-team format was adopted in 1984.
The HSBC Sevens World Series Pre-Qualifier being played in Hong Kong will comprise 12 teams, including two regional champions from all six Rugby regions recognized by the IRB.
In the Pre-Qualifier, the participating teams will be playing for the right to advance as one of the top four teams from that competition to the London Sevens at Twickenham in May 2013. Those four teams will be joined by Hong Kong, who earned an automatic exemption to the London Sevens as Asian champions.
In London, these five teams will pair off against the bottom three placed teams on the Series standings in an eight-team final qualification tournament after the penultimate Series event in Scotland. The top three teams from the London Sevens qualifier will gain core team status on the HSBC Sevens World Series in 2013/2014.
Hong Kong Sevens
Pool A: South Africa, Wales, Argentina, Australia.
Pool B: New Zealand, USA, France, Kenya.
Pool C: Samoa, Scotland, Portugal, England.
Pool D: Canada, Fiji, Spain, Hong Kong
Core team pre-qualifier
Pool E: Tonga, S-America 1, Tunisia and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)
Pool F: Japan, Georgia, S-America 2, Jamaica
Pool G: Russia, Zimbabwe, Cook Islands and Mexico
With thanks to the IRB