Global exposure for crucial Tokyo Sevens
After the excitement of round 6 of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong, the action gets straight back underway in Japan this weekend with round 7, the Tokyo Sevens, at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on 30-31 March.
The 2013 tournament is another key stepping stone towards Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. The 2012 Tokyo Sevens was the first international Sevens tournament to be held in Japan in 11 years and just six years now remain until Japan hosts Rugby's biggest event.
"JRFU is the host union of Rugby World Cup 2019, which will be held in Asia for the first time, and it will be a great asset for us to continue to host this high level IRB-sanctioned competition," said JRFU Tournament Director, Junichi Inagaki.
"We learnt a lot from hosting last year's Sevens tournament and since then we have worked very closely with the IRB in preparation for this year's Tokyo Sevens. We wish from our heart that all the fans, players and everyone involved will enjoy the tournament."
Asia's growing appetite for Rugby
Rugby is booming in Asia with participation having increased by 19 per cent in the last four years, the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) expanding to 28 member unions and interest and exposure growing at a startling rate. The 2013 Tokyo Sevens is set to be broadcast live domestically and globally to more homes than ever before, including via two broadcasters in Japan, Fox Sports Asia right across the region, on OSN in the Middle East, via TVB in Hong Kong and via Taj Sports (Ten) in India and Pakistan.
As well as J-Sports hosting the coverage in Japan and broadcasting all 45 matches live, TBS - Tokyo Broadcasting System watched by 55,159,000 households nationwide in Japan - has also committed to programming on the final day, dedicating additional time to Japan's matches and to the Cup semi-finals and final.
In all, 20 international broadcasters will carry live footage from Japan, with further broadcasters showing action delayed-live and via official highlights, meaning coverage will reach 155 countries in all.
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Tokyo action crucial to Series race
On the pitch, the outcome of the matches in Tokyo will have a major bearing on positions at the top of the HSBC Sevens World Series, but also on the promotion / relegation battle at the bottom.
At the final round of the HSBC Sevens World Series, the Marriott London Sevens in May, the three lowest-ranked of the current 15 core teams will have to play off for the three available core team places on the 2013/14 Series against Asian champions Hong Kong and the four teams who battled through pre-qualifying last weekend: Zimbabwe, Russia, Tonga and Georgia.
It is a scenario that every team wants to avoid, including Australia, who line up as defending champions in Tokyo but are currently only 12 points above Portugal in 13th place, and need every point they can get in Japan and Scotland over the next two rounds.
"We are certainly not safe, there are a few teams quite close to us so we are going for as many points as possible," said Australia's captain, Jesse Parahi.
"Like always, going into the second tournament it is all about mental toughness. The guys really have to pick themselves up after the week before and perform again."