Asia Rugby’s Sevens Revolution: A Comprehensive Overview of the 2024 Structural Shift
The Regional Associate clarified the revised plans for the competition structure for 2024 and beyond after a record year for Sevens tournaments in Asia. Seventy-one teams participated in five major senior Sevens tournaments, featuring both men and women. Asia hosted the Asian Qualifiers for the Olympics and the Asian Games Rugby 7s event, with the events gaining video Views of 16 million + on broadcast and social media platforms.
Asia Rugby re-evaluated its focus for the 2024 to 2027 cycle, with Asia Deputy President Mr Terence Khoo stating, “The most important factor for Asia Rugby was to understand the aspirations and practicalities facing of each of our member unions. We then engaged World Rugby to outline a competition framework which aligns with both high performance and participation objectives.”
He further added, “The needs of our member unions continue to change and it is crucial was us not to be tied to a legacy framework but continue to refine so that the needs of World Rugby, Asia Rugby and our members are truly aligned. It was crucial to truly understand the wishes of the members for whom the competitions were created. To achieve this, we surveyed each union to determine their preferred tournaments. The results guided our discussions with World Rugby, shaping our structure for 2024 to 2027.”
Asia Rugby Competitions & High Performance Committee Chairperson Mr Asanga Seneviratne added “ The overall plan and focus was a balanced approach where World Rugby’s regional investment focus on pathway competitions and our yearly competitions were all conducted successfully. The ability of our member unions to participate was critical for the framework to be a success.
The global post-pandemic challenges were many. A phenomenal rise in hosting costs, travel, training for national representation and la lack of sponsors were some of the major challenges overcome successfully by our member unions.
My sincere thanks and appreciation to our head of Competitions Ghaith Jalajel, Head of Communications and media Khuram Haron, CEO Asia Rugby Ben Van Rooyen and the team for an outstanding year of competitions hosting 16 tournaments ( of which 8 events featured men and women) across Asia.”
The importance for the teams wanting to compete on the pathway for the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup was addressed with the Asia Rugby Men’s and Women’s Championship continuing as the premier event for Asia with tournaments supporting the teams that wish and can compete with aspiration for the pathway to men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup. So far Rugby 15s Asia Rugby is aiming for quality rather than quantity. The regional body stated its commitment and requested World Rugby to assist in finding ways to create more opportunities for the top Asian teams to compete at a higher level and bridge the gap to see more Asian 15s teams competing at an even higher level.
After discussions with the unions, it is evident that the Sevens tournaments hold significant importance for all Asian member unions. In response, Asia Rugby has decided to introduce a third competition: the Asia Rugby Sevens Challenge. This tournament serves as the initial step for member unions to embark on their rugby journey. The winners and runners-up in both the Men’s and Women’s categories will be promoted to the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy.
Simultaneously, the two bottom teams from the Trophy will be relegated to the Asia Rugby Sevens Challenge. The Trophy will now feature the next 12 men’s and 8 women’s teams, continuing to serve as a qualifier for the Asia Rugby Sevens Series with 1 team for men and women being promoted and relegated every year.
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World Rugby and Asia Rugby Discuss Regional Competition Framework for 2024 and beyond
This thrilling Sevens structure ensures that teams compete against opponents at their skill level, creating events that prioritise player welfare and guarantee thrilling, entertaining, and competitive matches. These tournaments serve as crucial pathways, ultimately determining team seeding and qualification for the World Rugby Challenger series, Asian Games, and Asian Olympic Games Qualifiers.
On a continent representing 60% of the world’s population and 80% of its youth, supporting age-grade competitions is vital for the continued growth of rugby. The ongoing investment and structure for U20 7s for both men and women, U18 7s for boys and girls, and the U19 Rugby Championship will continue.
The CEO of Asia Rugby Mr Benjamin van Rooyen concluded, “As the largest continent in terms of both size and population, spanning 7 time zones, Asia poses not only the most substantial challenge for hosting and participation for Asia Rugby and its member unions but also represents a significant opportunity for growth and as a new market for the game. This is exemplified by our members unions overseeing three Sevens events, the Dubai 7s, Hong Kong and the Singapore 7s with a growing fan base as seen by the spike in social media analytics. We are committed to tackling all the challenges head-on and optimizing the opportunity to grow the game we all love.”