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The annual World Sevens Rugby League tournament kicks-off on Wednesday, January 21 when 12 teams will do battle in the qualifying round at St Mary's Western Weekender Stadium in Sydney's west.
Foundation clubs Balmain, Western Suburbs, Newtown, North Sydney as well as NSW Country, Japan, NASCA Aboriginals, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Jim Beam Cup, Italy and New Zealand Maori will fight for the right to advance to the World Sevens tournament at Aussie Stadium.
The 12 teams have been pooled into four groups with the winners of each section going straight into the semi-final stage. A total of nine teams competed in the inaugural Qualifying Tournament last year that saw the NASCA Aboriginals beat New Zealand Maori 26-12 in the final. The Aboriginals went on to play in the main tournament, beating Tonga 26-16 but losing to eventual finalists England 18-10.
Two spots have been allocated to wildcard entries in 2004 with the two finalists from the Qualifying Tournament heading to the main event on Saturday January 24th and Sunday 25th. The winners of the Qualifying Tournament will be grouped with Parramatta, Cronulla and English club Widnes in Pool A. The runners-up will be grouped with Newcastle, Manly and the New Zealand Warriors in Group E.
A total of 26 teams, including all 15 NRL clubs, will be on show for the two days. The two finalists from the Qualifying Tournament will join international sides France, Tonga, Samoa, Russia, Lebanon, New Zealand Residents, Widnes, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Parramatta and Cronulla will start proceedings when they clash in the opening match at 1pm on Saturday with the last game of the day scheduled at 9.35pm. Sunday's action will begin at 9.45am with the final to be held at 6.55pm. "We had applications from many nations including South Africa, United States and Greece which shows how important the World Sevens is to international Rugby League. The NRL clubs are also fielding their strongest possible sides which means that all the stars will be on show," said World Sevens Event Manager Tas Baitieri.
The Sevens will also introduce two new rules. Teams will only be allowed four tackles and they will be awarded a bonus point for a try when it is scored in the "Bonus Area", which will be a clearly marked box, located in the in-goal area between the goal posts at each end of the playing field.
The referee will single a five point try has been scored by, raising his arm and hand into the air and extending his fingers to indicate five points have been scored.
Tickets for the two-day tournament start from $15 (Adults) and $10 (Concessions) while family passes start from just $30. Tickets are available through Ticketek or they can be purchased on the day.
(Wednesday, January 21 at Western Weekender Stadium). Pool A: NZ Maori, Newtown, Jim Beam Cup Pool B: NSW Country, Balmain, Italy Pool C: Cook Islands, Wests, Japan Pool D: NASCA Aboriginals, American Samoa, North Sydney
(Saturday January 24 ? Sunday January 25 at Aussie Stadium) Pool A: Parramatta, Cronulla, Widnes, Wildcard 1 Pool B: Penrith, Wests, Souths, Canberra Pool C: St George Illawarra, Bulldogs, Lebanon, Melbourne Pool D: Sydney Roosters, Brisbane, North Qld, NZ Residents Pool E: Newcastle, NZ Warriors, Manly, Wildcard 2 Pool F: France, Tonga, Fiji Pool G: Russia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea
For further details please contact World Sevens Event Manager Tas Baitieri on 0412 125890 or Terry Liberopoulos on 0417 414204.