Asia's best teams have been confirmed for the Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens in January.
The Hong Kong men and Japanese women will compete as guest sides at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka on January 19-21.
Hong Kong, in the hands of new Fiji coach Gareth Baber, recently won its third straight cup title of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series and with it their third Series title in five years.
Meanwhile, Japan successfully defended their Asian Sevens title when they took out the women's cup at the final event of the season in Sri Lanka.
Japan also won the Hong Kong leg of the three-leg Asian series.
“We are excited to see the finest teams in Asia heading to the Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens in Rugbytown Sigatoka," said founding Chairman Jay Whyte. "With the next Olympic Games being in Tokyo 2020 we are sure to see a growth in the game in Asia so there has never been a better time for Fiji, the spiritual home of rugby sevens, to connect with our friends across the sea.”
Asia Rugby is targeting 1 million new rugby participants in the region by the time of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
Fijian-born Tomasi Lawa, captain Max Woodward and exciting newcomer Jason Jeyam are among the players to watch out for in the Hong Kong side who will use the trip to Fiji to build up for the international qualifier in Hong Kong in April.
"The series title secured Hong Kong’s place in the Hong Kong Sevens and and opportunity to qualify for the HSBC Sevens World Series," said Dai Rees, General Manager of Performance Rugby at the Hong Kong Rugby Union. "We have won three tournaments on the bounce this season and this group has some quality and can help us get onto the HSBC Sevens World Series, which is where we want to go.
“Playing in a quality tournament such as the Mana Whey Coral Coast Sevens is vital for our preparation and those players that come to Fiji will go a step further in their rugby sevens education."
Hong Kong joins the national team of Germany, reigning champions Police, UON Central Coast Sevens runners up Uluinakau and sponsor teams Outrigger Beach Resort, Uprising Beach Resort, Shangri-La, BLK and Sigatoka River Safari Yamacia as in the 16-strong men's event.
Saunaka, Coastline Roos, Army and Taveuni are alsoconfirmed having qualified in the recent Final Four for local teams.
"We expect to finalise the remainder of the sides - men's and women's - very soon," added Whyte. "Adding Hong Kong and Japan to the mix of local teams who are looking to impress the Fijian coaches is certain to create a world-class tournament.
"With the Japan women attending the Rio Olympics, and having captain Chiharu Nakamura, Mayu Shimizua and Marie Yamaguchi as seasoned performers on the world stage, it will be great to see them compete alongside Fijiana and the USA Selects in the Crest Na Iri Trophy.
“The game is growing in popularity in schools and universities in Japan and we look forward to witnessing that growth in January.”
The Mana Whey Fiji Coral Coast Sevens, which was founded in 2010, is proudly supported by Goodman Fielder Fiji, Sigatoka River Safari, Tourism Fiji, Outrigger Beach Resort, Uprising Beach Resort, Shangri-La's Fijian Resort & Spa, Crow's Nest Resort, Fiji Times, Viti FM and Fiji TV