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 Five Nations
Division 1 tournament from 15-21 April at the Rizal Memorial
Stadium in Manila with the winner being promoted to the HSBC Asian
Five Nations proper 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 Five
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
These are exciting times for Rugby in Asia with
the region already preparing to host its first Rugby World Cup in
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 cupís 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 IRBís Member Unions to
compete at the highest level as part of IRBís ongoing vision to
grow the game throughout the world.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said, "With 60% of the world's youth and an 18% 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."
Clear Pathway to RWC
Koji Tokumasu 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. Iíve 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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