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Fixtures Confirmed for HSBC Asian Five Nations 2009

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The Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) has confirmed the fixtures for the HSBC Asian Five Nations Rugby Series 2009 (A5N).

Following on from the successful first year of the tournament, A5N 2009 features an expanded competition structure with the elite Top 5 competition supported by three divisional tournaments and three regional tournaments.

In 2009, A5N matches will be played across Asia, from the Persian Gulf to Uzbekistan, and in some of the region’s most storied rugby grounds.

 This year’s venues include the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka, Japan; Hong Kong Football Club, home of the Hong Kong Tens tournament; Almaty Central Stadium, venue for June’s England v Kazakhstan World Cup 2010 football qualifier and the newest showpiece for regional rugby, “The Sevens” in Dubai, host venue of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009.

The highlight of the A5N 2009 is the Top 5 competition, featuring defending champions Japan, runners-up Korea, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Singapore, the promoted winners from the 2008 Division I Tournament. The Top 5 will again be played on the last weekend of April and first four weekends in May, Asia’s newly established international test window.

Feeding the Top 5 are two four-team divisional tournaments, Division I and II, each of which features a promotion and relegation structure that is unique in IRB competition.

Division I comprises the Arabian Gulf, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka and 2008 Division II champions Thailand playing in Dubai.

 The Division II competition features China, Malaysia, India and Pakistan playing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In keeping with ARFU’s strategic goal of creating a playing pathway from number 26 to number one, this year’s A5N features an all-new competition, the Division III Tournament which will be contested by the Philippines, Guam, Indonesia and Iran in Manila.

There will be promotion but no relegation for Division III in the competition’s first year.

A5N action starts in March with the first of three regional tournaments at the Savannakhet National Stadium in Lao where the host Lao Rugby Federation will face Brunei and regional rival, Cambodia. The other two regional tournaments will be held in Macau and Tashkent, Uzbekistan with Mongolia and Qatar and Kyrgyzstan and Jordan joining the respective hosts.

ARFU President Choi Won Tae commented on the schedule saying, “The Asian Rugby community is eagerly awaiting the kick-off of the second year of the HSBC Asian Five Nations and is excited about the continued growth of the tournament and ARFU. The A5N is a strong platform to showcase the strength of Asian rugby, particularly this year with the decision on the Japan Rugby Football Union’s bid for hosting the Rugby World Cup 2015 or 2019 coming on July 28.”

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