The inaugural HSBC Asian Sevens Series kicks off this weekend with the Shanghai Sevens, which will be held from 27-28 August at the Yuanshen Stadium in Pudong.
Asian rugby’s newest elite competition, the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, features four tournaments in Shanghai, Borneo, Thailand and India in its first year.
The Shanghai Sevens and the Borneo Sevens, which will be held in Kota Kinabalu from 24-25 September, are ranking competitions and each will feature 12 teams whilst the tournaments in Bangkok on 12-13 November and Goa on 19-20 of the same month will comprise eight teams.
HSBC’s title sponsorship of the Asian Sevens Series runs from 2011 to 2013 with the number of ranking tournaments rising from two this year to three in 2012 and four by 2013.
“We believe in encouraging potential wherever and whenever we can,” said Mr Peter Wong, chief executive of HSBC Asia-Pacific. “Development of rugby in Asia is one area where we see such potential and it is incredibly exciting to support the HSBC Asian Sevens Series as it visits China, Malaysia, Thailand and India. We anticipate more people playing and watching rugby, and can see the sport itself maturing every year with its return to the Olympics in 2016.”
Following the completion of the Shanghai and Borneo tournaments, the ARFU will have a ranking of Asia’s elite Sevens teams which will determine the Asian national teams invited to the premier international tournaments such as the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in March 2012.
The ranking is designed to also be used to determine qualification for other regional and international competitions like the Asian Games and even participation in the qualification for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games where Rugby Sevens will make its debut as an Olympic sport.
“ARFU is now able to provide more consistent competition and greater opportunities for our elite men’s and women’s sevens teams to further develop their player,” added Mr Ross Mitchell, honorary secretary general of the ARFU.
“The series results will also create a transparent ranking system for qualification for multi-sport competitions like the Asian Games and for the Olympics.”
China, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates will participate in all four of this year’s HSBC Asian Sevens Series events whilst Korea, last year’s number one ranked Asian sevens side, will look to make it three consecutive wins in the Shanghai Sevens and will also take part in Borneo. Japan, Asia’s number two side, will participate in Shanghai, Borneo and Bangkok.
For the first ever HSBC Asian Sevens Series event in Shanghai, a series of special training camps will be arranged for youth from local and international schools and the Sport for All charity during the event week. The training camps will culminate in a special mini-tournament played over the weekend at the Shanghai Sevens.
Shanghai and Borneo will also host women’s Sevens competitions as the ARFU continues to nurture the strong growth in women’s rugby in the region. China, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Thailand will compete in Shanghai.
“As the launch of this new Series proves, rugby in Asia continues to grow,” said regional general manager for Asia of the International Rugby Board, Jarrad Gallagher.
“Investing in tournaments and events is an important way to support this impressive growth of the game, and we thank HSBC for their continued support to the game in the region. “The new HSBC Asian Sevens Series will help further strengthen Asian rugby and ensure that the region has its own top-level competition, joining rugby nations around the world as they continue to develop their strength in Sevens rugby in preparation for the ultimate sevens event, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.”