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Asian Rugby Football Union Backgrounder
The launch of the HSBC Asian Sevens series marks the latest chapter in the long history of the Game in Asia, one of the fastest growing regions in world rugby. The membership of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) has nearly tripled from ten members in 1998 to 28 unions today.
The history of rugby in Asia dates back nearly as long as that in England, where the world’s first rugby football union, the RFU, was established in 1871. In 1879, the first Asian union was founded in the Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, RFU. Rugby was also being played in Hong Kong and Japan before the turn of the century. The game maintained its appeal through the post-colonial era and on 15 December, 1968, ARFU was founded with eight original members: Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
The first Asian Rugby Football Tournament (ARFT) was held in April 1969 in Tokyo. It has been played (initially annually and then bi-annually) ever since. The HSBC Asian Five Nations (HSBC A5N) Top 5 competition (launched in 2008) takes the place of the ARFT. The original ARFT trophy is now contested by teams in the HSBC A5N Division I competition.
Asia has been represented at every Rugby World Cup since 1987 with Japan the only Asian team to have qualified for the competition. In 2009, Japan became the first Asian nation to be awarded the right to host the Rugby World Cup (in 2019).
The HSBC Asian Sevens marks the first time that an annual ranking competition for Sevens has been mounted by ARFU. In 2011, four events will be held as part of the HSBC Asian Sevens. HSBC Asian Sevens will further increase the profile of the game and play an invaluable role in preparing the continent’s teams for HSBC Sevens Series participation and eventual qualification for the Olympic Games starting in 2016.
Today, ARFU spans a vast territory from Kazakhstan in the north to Indonesia in the south and Lebanon in the west to Guam in the east. Of ARFU’s 28 member unions, 14 are full members of the International Rugby Board: China, Chinese Taipei, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. There are a further 6 associate IRB members of in Asia: Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Laos, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Lebanon and the UAE are the two newest ARFU associate members as of December 2009..