The HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens carnival touches down in the Lion City

The Singapore leg of the Rugby Sevens marks the 8th pit stop en route to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, with the top four teams at the end of the season gaining automatic qualification berths for the mega event.

The fast-paced format will see 2018 champions Fiji, who are also coming off a marvelous win in the Hong Kong Sevens, take to the field to try and defend their crown.

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Alongside them will be defending World Rugby Seven Series Champions South Africa, traditional powerhouses New Zealand, Asian representatives Japan and Hong Kong and eleven other teams in an intense two-day, 45-game tournament.

A reported 40,000 fans showed up last year to attend the tournament and cheer on their favourite teams and it is expected that the turnout will be even higher this time around. The HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens has always promoted a carnival atmosphere in the busy city-state, with something to cater to everyone’s sporting and entertainment needs.

The students of the sport can attend informative clinics conducted by the various national team coaches and also meet legends of the game at the fringe festivals that accompany the two-day event. Families attending with children can head over to the Festival Villiage where they may chance upon roving performers, buy some popcorn and settle down for a stage show or perhaps have their faces painted to reflect support for their favourite teams.

Singapore’s buzzing night life especially comes alive during the event as well, with parties and social gatherings at the inimitable Clarke Quay backed up by delectable cuisines and a wide selection of music genres to unwind to.

Predictably, the fans were on hand to give them a rousing welcome when the teams touched down at Changi Airport on Monday with defending Champions Fiji – who play some of the most entertaining rugby you’ll see – particularly popular with those who turned up. The teams then obliged to numerous selfie and autograph requests from the fans, before heading to their respective accommodations.

As Singapore gears up to host a gala weekend on the 13 and 14 of April, packed with on and off-field action, the outlook for the sport in the region is in good hands, assures World Rugby competitions operations manager Douglas Langley.

“As a result of the 2016 Rio Olympics, our fan base was enhanced by 16.8 million people [and] that meant we had a whole new demographic on a very large scale, to tap [into].”

“We have even bigger potential here [in the region], because we’ve got some very good development in Asia through Asia Rugby, as well as through the different [national] unions themselves,” he added.

Rugby Sevens will feature as a sport in the Olympics for only the second time at Tokyo 2020, but first, the quadrennial Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan later this year – the tournament’s first iteration in Asia.

And the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens will be hoping to kickstart what is an extremely important year and a half for the sport in the region by putting on a fantastic show for the fans yet again – a commitment that has seen the country extend its rights to host a leg of the tournament until 2023.