Asian Series set for kick-off in Malaysia

(IRB.COM) Friday 30 August 2013
 Asian Series set for kick-off in Malaysia
Hong Kong celebrate winning the Asian Series in 2012

The HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series, Asia's premier regional Sevens competition, begins this weekend in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. 

Teams from all over Asia will be competing in the Series which continues the worldwide growth trend in the sport ahead of Sevens' debut in the Olympics in 2016, with the Series growing from three to four rounds this year. 

The number of core teams has also increased, from 10 to 12, including defending champions Hong Kong, runners-up Japan, China, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the UAE. 

The top four finishers from last year’s Series, Hong Kong, Japan, Chinese Taipei and China respectively, were seeded into the first row of the four pools with the remaining eight teams banded into two draw groups of four and drawn across the remaining spots.

Defending champions Hong Kong, and China, will also have a side at the National Games in China, where Sevens is making its debut, but will be hoping to perform at both competitions despite their player-pool being stretched this weekend. 

Top finishers

"Last year we only used 14 players during the Series, but now we will have to split our resources between the National Games and the opening tournament in Malaysia and both are equally important to us,” said Dai Rees, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union’s head of performance and coaching.

“Winning a gold medal at the National Games will be important as it is the first time that rugby sevens is being played there – since it is now an Olympic sport – which means the result will carry a lot of weight among the Hong Kong Olympic Committee."

While Hong Kong, who also won the recent Asian Youth Games title, and Japan will be the favourites for the top spot in the Series, fierce opposition can be expected from Korea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

After Malaysia, the teams head to Thailand in September, with Cambodia, India, Laos and Uzbekistan joining the core teams for that competition, before traveling to Mumbai in October and Singapore in November. 

The top finishers of this year's Series will take comfort that they are leading the Sevens stakes in Asia, while spots will be available at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and the chance to qualify as a core side on the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series, for the top finishers.