The line-up for the 2015 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens has been announced with the tournament retaining its status as the largest on the HSBC Sevens World Series.

Twenty-eight men's teams will compete in Hong Kong – 16 in the core team competition and 12 in the Sevens World Series qualifier – as the world-famous tournament celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Over 120,000 people are expected to attend over the weekend of 27-29 March, with a 12-team women’s invitational tournament and numerous social and youth competitions running alongside the 71-match men’s programme.

Reigning champions New Zealand and fellow core teams Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Japan, Kenya, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, USA and Wales are joined by tournament newcomers Belgium in the sixth round of the World Series. In accepting an invitation to take part, Belgium become the 57th country to compete in Hong Kong since 1976.

The 12-team line-up in the qualifier comprises two teams from each of World Rugby’s six regional associations. The winner will earn core team status for 2015-16 and replace the lowest ranked side at the conclusion of the current series. Japan won the qualifier in Hong Kong last year to join the series. Russia and Spain are the representatives from Europe, Papua New Guinea and Tonga from Oceania, Zimbabwe and Tunisia from Africa, Mexico and Guyana from North America and the Caribbean, Uruguay and Brazil from South America and hosts Hong Kong and Korea from Asia. 

World Rugby’s General Manager Sevens Avan Lee said: “Hong Kong is going to be very special for lots of reasons in 2015, not least because in the tournament’s 40th anniversary year the organisers will be pulling out all the stops to make their event even more special than it always is for the players and the fans.

“There is the excitement and drama that the World Series qualifier brings for those teams aspiring to join the top level, and of course the current series will be ticking past the half way stage in Hong Kong. With only the top four guaranteed an Olympic place in Rio 2016 at the end of the season each series point in crucial so there is a huge amount riding on every match.”

The official tournament draw for both men’s competitions will be held on 16 February.