Asia RWC qualifying starts this weekend

(RUGBYWORLDCUP.COM) Thursday 12 April 2012
 
Asia RWC qualifying starts this weekend

  • Four teams battle for place in next round 
  • Asian rugby on the rise 
  • Webb Ellis Cup on show in Manila on 15 April 
The road to Rugby World Cup 2015 in England continues this weekend with Manila providing the backdrop for the the beginning of the Asia qualification process that will deliver at least one team from the region to Rugby's showcase event. 

Sri Lanka, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and hosts the Philippines will participate in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Division 1 tournament from April 15-21 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila with the winner being promoted to the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5 next year. More importantly, however, that team will still be in the mix for a place at Rugby World Cup 2015.
 
There is one direct qualifier place available via the Asia process with the winner of the 2014 HSBC Asian 5 Nations progressing to Rugby World Cup 2015. However, with the runner-up moving on to the Repechage and a second chance of qualification, there is also the possibility that Asia could have two representatives at a Rugby World Cup for the first time. 

Webb Ellis Cup available to fans

These are exciting times for Rugby in Asia with the region already preparing to host its first Rugby World Cup in 2019. Present in Manila for the tournament will be Koji Tokumasu, IRB Council Member and General Manager of the Japan 2019 Organising Committee and with him will be the famous Webb Ellis Cup, the iconic symbol of the pinnacle achievement in the Game and of true sporting excellence. This will be the cup’s first ever trip to the Philippines and it will be available for fans to view and photograph before the match. 

Following the first Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier in Mexico last month, Asia is the second Region to begin the process towards the finals in England. That global process involves 80 teams, 184 matches, around 3,000 players across six continents with eight places at RWC 2015 up for grabs. It gives an opportunity and a clear pathway for all IRB’s Member Unions to compete at the highest level as part of IRB’s ongoing vision to grow the Game throughout the world. 

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "With 60 per cent of the world's youth and an 18 per cent increase in playing numbers over the last four years, Asia is one of Rugby's major growth markets. The IRB, working in partnership with ARFU, is investing more than GBP 9 million in Asia between 2009-2012 and is committed to ensuring that more men, women and children have the opportunity to experience and engage with the sport as the region prepares to host its first Rugby World Cup when Japan welcomes the world in 2019." 

“Even though the tournament itself is still three and a half years away, it’s exciting to know that the road to England 2015 is already underway and the world waits to see who will join the 12 automatically qualified teams from the 2011 tournament. In New Zealand last year, we saw many of the teams that did qualify push the top sides all the way so it’s clear the gap is closing and that has to be good for the Game." 

“In particular, Rugby in Asia is booming. There is so much potential for further growth of the Game in this Region and with the continent hosting Rugby World Cup in 2019, it is encouraging to see much of that potential already being realised.” 

Clear pathway to RWC

General Manager of Japan 2019 Organising Committee Koji Tokumasu, who will attend the matches in Manila, said: “The Rugby World Cup qualifiers are important as they give all teams a clear pathway and an exact indication of what they need to achieve in order to play at the highest level. I am excited to attend the very first Asian qualification game for RWC 2015 and I am looking forward to watching some good matches in Manila. I’ve no doubt the spectators will enjoy getting a close-up view of the Webb Ellis Cup. 

“As Asia looks ahead to Rugby World Cup in 2019, tournaments like the HSBC Asian Five Nations as well as the significant IRB investment, are vital as we seek to develop the Game throughout the continent.” 

England Rugby 2015 CEO Paul Vaughan is delighted to see the road to Rugby World Cup 2015 gathering momentum around the globe. 

"It is fantastic to see another region commence the qualification process. The performances of Japan in recent years and during RWC 2011 highlights the progress and development of Asian Rugby. It is hugely important that the region has a strong representative at RWC 2015, not only for Rugby's development in Asia, but because the colour and passion that the supporters bring gives another dimension to the festival and atmosphere around the Tournament." 

In addition to the on-field action, the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) is hosting its annual elite match official seminar in Manila during the week. The workshop, which involves all members of the ARFU A and B referee panels, strives to improve the overall standard of officiating throughout the region ahead of the busiest time of the year for international Rugby in Asia.
 
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More preview info available on Friday on rugbyworldcup.com