Asian teams target places at RWC Sevens

(IRB.COM) Thursday 1 November 2012  
 Asian teams target places at RWC Sevens
Hong Kong and Japan captains Rowan Varty and Katsuyuki Sakai hope to have their hands on the trophy for real on Saturday

Singapore will be the focus this weekend as three of the remaining four places available in the 24-team men’s event at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 will be filled after the finale of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series 2012.

Twelve of the top teams in Asia will battle for those places at Moscow 2013 on Friday and Saturday at the Singapore Cricket Club as part of the 65th anniversary celebrations of the renowned Singapore Cricket Club Sevens.

Hong Kong arrive in Singapore as the newly crowned Asian Sevens Series champions after edging Japan by the smallest of margins after victory in Mumbai last month, but are not underestimating the challenge of their Pool A opponents the Philippines and Guam.

“From the outset of the Series our goal was to qualify for the Rugby World Cup Sevens,” admitted Hong Kong coach Dai Rees, who names an unchanged team for the qualifier with Rowan Varty continuing as captain.

“We have beaten Japan before, including here at the SCC Sevens in past club competitions, and have only lost to one other Asian Sevens team, Korea, since 2010.

Tough challenge

“But we want to be able to beat Japan consistently in the big games like the finals in Mumbai. We may get that opportunity this weekend, but I am wary of other teams that are likely to enter the competition strongly, including the Philippines, China and Korea.”

The Philippines, now coached by former USA Sevens coach Al Caravelli, have recalled four players from Japan’s Top League to boost their qualification hopes and Rees knows that will make them a tricky opponent for Hong Kong.

“The Philippines have slowly been adding in their experienced veterans at each tournament on this year’s Series and I expect them to have a full complement this weekend in Singapore,” said Rees.

“In Mumbai, they ran Japan close and proved they are getting dangerous. For us, we can’t afford to look too far ahead and will need to take it match by match with the Philippines game on Friday afternoon posing a tough match up for us.”

Japan are the second seeds in Singapore and will face Sri Lanka and Indonesia in Pool D but coach Tomohiro Segawa – who welcomes back Sevens veterans Katsuyuki Sakai and Kuwazuru Yasuku to the fold – has one clear aim for the tournament.

Asia's record

“We are of course here to qualify for Rugby World Cup Sevens but we want to do it in a Japanese style, as number one, and by beating Hong Kong in the final,” said Segawa.

Korea, who finished fifth in the Asian Sevens Series in 2012, head Pool B and will face Thailand and hosts Singapore with a strong team captained by flyer Kim Wong-yong and with Han Kyun Ku expected to figure strongly in their qualification bid.

China will be hoping to make up from the disappointment of missing out on the pre-qualifier for the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong in March by booking their ticket in Moscow as either a finalist or third place play-off winner.

They will face Malaysia and Kazakhstan in Pool C and will be keen to avenge a shock loss to the former in the Mumbai Sevens last month.

Japan and Hong Kong are the only two Asian teams to have qualified for every Rugby World Cup Sevens since the inaugural tournament in 1993 and, while Korea failed to qualify for the 2009 event in Dubai, they hold the distinction of being the highest ever Asian finisher at a world championship after reaching tied-fifth overall at RWC Sevens 1997 in Hong Kong. 

Exciting competition awaits

“With the teams hitting peak form and places at the World Cup up for grabs, there is everything to play for this weekend and some exciting competition awaits us all,” said Trevor Gregory, Vice President of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU).

“It is a great pleasure for ARFU to share this excitement with the many spectators attending the iconic Singapore Cricket Club Sevens and we are delighted to help celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Singapore Cricket Club Sevens.”

Twenty of the 24 places have already been filled for RWC Sevens 2013. Nine teams qualified automatically, hosts Russia and the eight quarter-finalists from RWC Sevens 2009 in Dubai in champions Wales, runners up Argentina, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, South Africa, Kenya and England, as well as hosts Russia.

Eleven teams have negotiated the regional qualifying process in Portugal, Spain, France, Georgia and Scotland (Europe), Australia and Tonga (Oceania), Canada and USA (NACRA) and Zimbabwe and Tunisia (Africa).

Once the three Asian qualifiers are known, the one remaining place will be filled by the nation crowned South American champions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February 2013.

Singapore Sevens fixtures

Day 1 - Friday, 2 November

09:00 - Pool A - Hong Kong v Guam
09:20 - Pool B - Korea v Singapore
09:40 - Pool C - China v Kazakhstan
10:00 - Pool D - Japan v Indonesia
11:00 - Pool A - Philippines v Guam
11:20 - Pool B - Thailand v Singapore
11:40 - Pool C - Malaysia v Kazakhstan
12:00 - Pool D - Sri Lanka v Indonesia
13:00 - Pool A - Hong Kong v Philippines
13:20 - Pool B - Korea v Thailand
13:40 - Pool C - China v Malaysia
14:00 - Pool D - Japan v Sri Lanka
15:20 - Bowl SF 1 - 3rd Pool A v 3rd Pool B
15:40 - Bowl SF 2 - 3rd Pool C v 3rd Pool D
16:00 - Cup QF 1 - 1st Pool A v 2nd Pool C
16:20 - Cup QF 2 - 1st Pool B v 2nd Pool D
16:40 - Cup QF 3 - 1st Pool C v 2nd Pool A
17:00 - Cup QF 4 - 1st Pool D v 2nd Pool B