In a significant development, World Rugby’s Chief Executive Officer, Alan Gilpin, along with Nigel Cass, Chief Competitions & Performance Officer held discussions with Qais al Dhalai, Asia Rugby President at Asia Rugby office in Dubai, UAE. Joining the meeting were the Chairperson of the Asia Rugby Competitions Committee, Asia Rugby’s Chief Executive Officer and Asia Rugby Competition Manager; Asanga Seneviratne, Benjamin van Rooyen, and Ghaith Jalajel.
The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss the future framework of Asia Rugby competitions and explore avenues to strengthen the collaboration between the two organisations. The strategic discussions aimed to enhance the overall landscape of rugby competitions in the region for the upcoming men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup cycles ensuring maximum synergy.
Asia Rugby presented World Rugby with an overview of its vision for the competition structure in the upcoming four-year cycle spanning from 2024 to 2027. This vision was formulated based on insights gathered through a comprehensive survey conducted during the Asia Rugby Council meeting held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on the 26th of November 2023. During the Asia Rugby Council meeting,
Asia Rugby members provided valuable feedback regarding their preferences for competitions they wish to engage in and consider significant. In the end, a survey was conducted to formulate the final vision and plan, incorporating inputs from all 36 member unions.
In the context of 15s Rugby, the discussion centred on men’s Rugby World Cup qualification pathways. The significance of this pathway was highlighted, and Asia Rugby clarified the teams aspiring to compete for qualification.
The decision was taken to postpone the launch of the Asia Rugby Grand League in 2024. Asia Rugby made the decision to ensure ample time to evaluate whether a sustainable business model can be created for the future.
Furthermore, Asia Rugby shared the key outcome of the survey with the conclusion of the significance of Rugby Sevens for its members and its role as a pathway for Asia Rugby members. This acknowledgement is rooted in the understanding of their aspirations to participate in and qualify for multi-sports events such as the Asian Games and the Olympic Games in addition to the World Rugby events such as the HSBC Sevens Challenger, and the HSBC SVNS Circuit.
Asia Rugby also proposed a new structure to accommodate the interest shown in sevens pathway competitions, the addition of the Asia Rugby Sevens Challenge (ARSC) tournament in the calendar will provide an opportunity for promotion to the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy (ARST) while Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy (ARST) and Asia Rugby Sevens Series (ARSS) will continue to have promotion and relegation as before. World Rugby agreed to give this further consideration.
It is proposed, the top 4 teams from the ARST will join the 8 ARSS teams in the 2025 season to play in the Achi-Nagoya Asian Games 2026. Asia Rugby reinforced its desire that a similar approach be considered for any regional qualification of teams from Asia towards the LA 28 Summer Olympiad.
Asia Rugby and World Rugby concluded the meeting with a deepened understanding and a commitment to collaborate on a calendar that accommodates the aspirations of all stakeholders to engage in meaningful competitions at all levels. The shared objective is to foster the growth of rugby across Asia and globally.