The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has announced the 24 international teams to take part in this year’s Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens 2011, the fifth leg of the World Series, with Mexico set to compete for the first time.

The Mexicans become the first team to make their maiden Hong Kong voyage since Madagascar first appeared at the tournament in 2006. Invited by the International Rugby Board, Mexico becomes the 49th country to compete at the Hong Kong Sevens in its 35 years.

Spain is included in the Hong Kong draw for the first time since 1998, while Malaysia will make their first outing there since 2003.

“Mexico’s participation in the Hong Kong leg of this year’s Series gives them an opportunity to compete at an international level in preparation for the upcoming Rugby Sevens competition in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara later in the year,” said IRB Sevens Manager, Beth Coalter.

“With 24 teams in Hong Kong there is a wider range of team strengths to compete against and together with Hong Kong’s renowned atmosphere, the experience will go a long way to further assist Mexico’s preparations.”

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union is excited to welcome the 12 core teams participating in all eight events on the Sevens World Series – Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, USA and Wales. Seven other nations from outside Asia join those sides – Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Tonga and Zimbabwe – while China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Hong Kong complete the line-up.

Last year’s Hong Kong Sevens was one of the most fiercely contested in recent memory as all four of the previous Hong Kong champions (England, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa) reached the Cup semi finals.

Samoa eventually ran out champions and the extra points available to the Hong Kong champions – Hong Kong’s 24-nation field yields more Series points than the other seven events – helped propel the islanders to their first ever Series title.

If the first two events of the 2010/11 World Series are any indication, fans in Hong Kong are in for another thriller. England and New Zealand were the early Cup champions in Dubai and South Africa and four-time Hong Kong champions England currently occupy top spot in the table with 44 points. They are closesly followed by New Zealand (40), defending champions Samoa (36), Fiji (32) and South Africa (24).

The next two legs of the World Series will be held in Wellington, New Zealand and Las Vegas, USA over the first two weekends of February. Following the USA Sevens, the official pool draw will be made for the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens on 17 February 2011.

Organised by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, the 2011 Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens is expected to attract upwards of 120,000 spectators through the gates from 25-27 March at the Hong Kong Stadium.