Italy and France pull out of 7s
March 21, 2003

The war in Iraq and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in south-east Asia has led Italy and France to withdraw from the Hong Kong Sevens tournament.

The two European nations have informed the International Rugby Board they have pulled out of the tournament which is due to start on March 28.

The IRB then informed the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, organisers of the Sevens, of the two countries' decisions.

"We are, of course, disappointed that France and Italy have withdrawn," said Allan Payne, executive director of the HKRFU.

"We continue to liaise with other participating teams, who have indicated that they will be travelling to Hong Kong."

But New Zealand, who currently lead to IRB Sevens series, have yet to confirm they will be attending the tournament and are considering the current global instability and threat to safety.

Meanwhile, predictions that up to 55,000 tourists may travel to the World Cup in Australia later this year may have to be revised in light of a leading European tourist operator revealing that over 400 cancellations have occurred over the past three weeks.

Additionally, the IRB and member groups have returned a significant volume of tickets to the host nation due to not being able to take up their full allocation.

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