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Kazakhstan's precarious hold in the Top Five competition over the last couple of seasons ended last year in the desert sands of Dubai when the UAE clinched a thriller 46-31.
That defeat has relegated the Kazakhs to Division One and they will be hoping to remedy that with a quick promotion to the top flight for when it matters –World Cup qualifying year in 2014.
Player availability has always been an issue and much will depend on whether they will be able to field a full-strength squad for the Division One tournament which this year will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The hot and humid conditions at the Havelocks Sports Club in Colombo will also pose a big challenge.
As hosts, Sri Lanka will start as favourites to win the Division One competition. The goal of the SLRFU is to be in the company of the big boys when it is 2015 World Cup qualifying time next year.
It will be a huge feather in the cap for former fly-half Asanga Seneviratne, the president of the SLRFU who has managed to bring together the country’s disparate rugby factions under one roof.
With the longest tradition of organised club rugby in Asia, dating back to 1879, (just eight years after the founding of the world’s first rugby union in England), Sri Lanka will be seeking re-admission back into the Top Five, from whose company they were demoted in 2011.
The crowds – several thousands regularly turn up for school and club matches – could be a huge advantage for Sri Lanka who now have hired expert foreign coaches including South African Ravin du Plessis and former England sevens international Ben Gollings to provide assistance.
Was pipped 28-18 by the Philippines last year in the game to decide who would be promoted to the Top Five last season and will be hoping to make amends.
Surprisingly relegated to Division Two in 2010, Chinese Taipei has cemented its place as one of the leading teams in Asia with encouraging performances to stay in Division One over the past two seasons.
Mostly made up of young university graduates and players from the Armed Forces, Chinese Taipei has struggled to field a bulked up forward pack and has been forced to depend on speed and guile amongst their backs.
Defeated Singapore 49-31 in the relegation battle last year but will be hard-pressed this time to stay in contention. The tough schedule of three game in seven days is also likely to present a challenge to the Taiwanese.
The Division Two champions will be keen to prove that last year’s performance was no flash in the pan as they vie for a creditable outing in Colombo in April.
The Thais booked their promotion with a 37-17 victory over Iran before knocking out arch-rivals Malaysia 22-19 with a last second try in the crucial decider. The Thais then cruised past Division Three champions India in Bangkok in a Rugby World Cup qualifier play-off of tournament champions to retain their spot in Division I.
The Thais, under new 15s coach and former captain Tanyavit Kuasint, will be hoping to achieve greater consistency as they come up against the more-physical Kazakhs and Sri Lankans.