THE Majestic International Hotel in Hong Kong is the most famous

watering hole in South East Asia, with breathtaking vista of the

waterfront and mainland Kowloon just across the bay.

The hotel's general manager is a genial Scot born and bred in Dysart,

Fife, James A Smith, but the setting may seem very far removed from the

rugby world that, just last Saturday, encompassed the fall from grace at

Meggetland of the reigning champions, Kelso. However, for the Kelso

captain, John Jeffrey, and an awe-inspiring galaxy of rugby talent, Hong

Kong this weekend is the centre of the rugby universe.

The Hong Kong sevens have drawn from all corners of the rugby world

talents famous and comparatively unknown for a quite unique two-day

tournament that, once again, as in every one of the past 13 years, has

fired the enthusiasm and anticipation of the expatriate population of

this remarkable island.

It is hard to believe, but the tournament is a complete sell-out and

the organisers, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Bank, of which Willie

Purves, a man of Kelso, is chairman, are concerned about the possible

overflow after the Government Stadium is packed to its 28,000 capacity.

It is an enduring disappointment in Hong Kong that the Home Countries

do not send national sides to compete. Indeed, on this occasion there

are 24 invited teams, all national representative sides with national

coaches in attendance, except two, the Barbarians and the Irish


Of course, the Scottish Border Club, Co-optimists, and Public School

Wanderers have competed there in the past and there are hopes that the

Borderers might accept a future invitation, although they decided not to

travel this time apparently because of the possible effect on the Gala

tournament of the absence of nine class players.

Yet those who have competed in the event in the past rate it as one of

the highlights of their careers. David Campese, perhaps the world's most

glittering current star, has travelled from Milan, where he plays his

out-of-Australian season as virtually a full-time player. This agreeable

genius paid the high accolade that ''to me winning the Hong Kong sevens

is one of the great rugby experiences.''

Campese is one of a squad chosen almost entirely from the Australian

tour party to England and Scotland in October and November and they look

a hot lot -- Ian Williams, Acura Nuiqila, Michael Lynagh, Brad Burke,

Jeff Miller, Steve Tuynman, Julian Gardner, and Australia's most capped

player, Simon Poidevin.

But they are smarting from a whipping they received from New Zealand

in Lynagh's absence at the Sydney International sevens last weekend. As

holders they are, as Bob Dwyer, their blunt coach warned, ''hoping to do

a bloody sight better that they did on their own patch.''

Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey and Scott Hastings are ready to do battle

for a powerful Barbarian seven who, in 1981, became the only northern

hemisphere side ever to win the event. The winning try on that occasion

was scored by Les Cusworth, Leicester's aged wizard who this time is in

the Irish Wolfhounds group that has called in Roger Baird, no stranger

to those parts.

Baird and fellow Merchistonian Jeffrey were guests on Wednesday

evening at a cocktail party thrown by several Merchistonians who made

Hong Kong a port of call during the tour of Japan by the Merchiston

Castle rugby party.

Another helpful ex-patriot is Glen Docherty, brother of Jimmy who

played eight times for Scotland out of Glasgow High School FP between

1955 and 1958 and who dropped a goal when Scotland ended that miserable

run of 17 consecutive defeats with a 14-8 victory over Wales in 1955.

The tournament comprises eight pools of three teams each. It might

surprise readers that sides are entered from Thailand, South Korea,

Taipeh, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Bahrain as well as Hong Kong, who will

then set out for Scotland to take part in the Melrose sevens and

15-a-side matches against Melrose and Jed-Forest.

Local feeling has it that New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Western

Samoa are the big guns, but the Barbarians seem seriously intent on

repeating their 1981 triumph in leaning on the sevens acumen of Jeffrey

and Calder, and the Irish Wolfhounds not only have Baird but the Oxford

Wallaby Brian Smith, as well

as Ireland's captain, Philip Matthews, Neil Francis, and Denis


It is, however, the camaraderie among players of all the nations that

transcends everything at this unique competition, where even a side that

loses one or both of its pool games still has the chance of winning the

Plate Trophy or the Bowl. Cusworth summed up the feelings of all who

have experienced its peculiar attraction: ''It is the best tournament in

the world bar none. It epitomizes what rugby is all about.''