What Have We Learned From Asia Rugby’s New Competition Framework Proposals 2024-2027
In December 2023, Asia Rugby released information outlining its discussion with World Rugby on its plans for a new competition framework proposals 2024-2027 – which impacts pathways to 7s and XVs tournaments in Asia and on the world stage. But how much is confirmed and what has changed?
We have made no secret of the fact that the Asian regional Sevens and Fifteens divisions need an overhaul to make it easier for fans, the media, and unions to understand and allow better planning for the latter of their programmes.
Over recent years, tournament participation has been announced very late and there are far too many mismatches in divisions (which are based on regions rather than the quality of the teams participating) – leading to what we think is lower fan engagement and interest. It can also at times be a poor way of marketing rugby in Asia.
On the positive side, especially since the pandemic, at least there has been more rugby and all tournaments from age grade to senior level have made a return. Asia Rugby has also improved the consistency of streaming (for free) the tournaments.
World Rugby & Asia Rugby
World Rugby’s Chief Executive Officer, Alan Gilpin and Nigel Cass, Chief Competitions & Performance Officer met with Asia Rugby during the Emirates Dubai SVNS. Asia Rugby was represented by President Qais al Dhalai, the Chairperson of the Competitions Committee (Asanga Seneviratne), Chief Executive Officer (Benjamin van Rooyen), and Competition Manager Ghaith Jalajel.
The meeting at the Asia Rugby headquarters discussed the framework as well as strategies to improve competitions in Asia – with a focus on the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup cycles. The pathways have changed as both have increased participation with 24 teams now due at RWC 2027 for the men in Australia and 16 teams for the Women’s Rugby World Cup England 2025.
World Rugby had also announced the formation of a new aligned rugby calendar at the RWC 2023 which would change competitions on a global stage.
Pandemic Challenges To Asian Rugby
Asia Rugby admitted what we all know and understand, “The global post-pandemic challenges were many. A phenomenal rise in hosting costs, travel, training for national representation and a lack of sponsors were some of the major challenges overcome by member unions.
They addressed the need to “find 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.”
Asia Rugby’s New Competition Framework Proposals 2024-2027
What Has Asia Rugby Proposed for Fifteens Rugby
Asia Rugby said it drafted a new framework of competitions based on feedback from all 36 member unions in the region.
- Unsurprisingly, AR confirmed the postponement of the launch of the Asia Rugby Grand League in 2024 – this has been pretty much dead in the water since its announcement from what we can gather.
- Asia Rugby clarified which men’s teams were aspiring to reach the Rugby World Cup qualification pathways.
Very little else was released about the framework for XV rugby in the region, which out of all of the competitions, needs the biggest shake-up to make it more streamlined and easier to follow. The proposed competitions for 2024-2027 were included in the image Asia Rugby released:
- Asia Rugby Men’s Championship
- Asia Rugby Men’s Division 1
- Asia Rugby Men’s Division 2
- Asia Rugby Men’s Division 3
- Asia Rugby Women’s Championship
- Asia Rugby Women’s Division 1
- Qualification for WXV annually
2024-2025 Proposed Asia Rugby Tournaments
2026-2027 Proposed Asia Rugby Tournaments
What About Sevens Rugby in Asia – Asia Rugby’s New Competition Framework Proposals 2024-2027
There is undoubtedly greater interest from the region member union in sevens – largely due to the link in funding to Olympic Committees, and a more realistic chance to reach the global and regional events such as the Asian Games, Olympic Games, as well as World Rugby events such as the HSBC Sevens Challenger, and HSBC SVNS.
Asia Rugby Deputy President Mr Terence Khoo added, “The most important factor for Asia Rugby was to understand the aspirations and practicalities facing each of our member unions. We then engaged World Rugby to outline a competition framework which aligns with both high performance and participation objectives.”
New Asia Rugby Sevens Challenge (ARSC) Tournament – Pathways For Sevens In Asia
Asia Rugby proposed to add the ARSC to the annual calendar which would be a pathway for teams to reach the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy (ARST) – which is effectively the second tier in Asia. We support the idea but the title of a Challenge Series will also just add further confusion with the existing World Sevens Challenger Series which Asian teams participate in – surely just calling them Division 1-3 would be easier for all?
The Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy (ARST) and Asia Rugby Sevens Series (the latter being the top tier) “will continue to have promotion and relegation as before” according to Asia Rugby. We have to say from experience, that very seldom has the relegation and promotion from these competitions been made very clear, even teams at the tournaments hinting at frustration to us. So the clarity below is a welcome change.
Effectively it would mean:
- Asia Rugby Sevens Series – has meant to be 8 women’s and men’s teams – the bottom team from each will be relegated to the ARST annually.
- Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy – Team numbers have not been consistent, with 7 women’s and 14 men’s teams at the 2023 tournament. In the future this will be limited to 8 women’s and 12 men’s teams – the bottom two teams will be relegated to the ARSC, while only the winners will be promoted to the ARSS annually.
- Asia Rugby Sevens Challenge – Number of teams TBC but the winners and runners-up (top 2) in both the Men’s and Women’s categories will be promoted to the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy every year.
HSBC SVNS Pathway – Asia 2024-2027
No mention was made of changes to teams qualifying for the World Rugby Challenger Series from Asia in the AR published articles but they released these images which help shed light on the qualification.
In 2023, the top two men’s and top 3 women’s teams from Asia qualified from the region for the Challenger Series and the idea is to continue this format – with teams from the Challenger Series able to qualify for the HSBC SVNS Core series (it should be noted the image below from AR is incorrect – as many as 4 teams can be promoted to the SVNS from the Challenger Series at the season-ending promotion/relegation tournament.)
Asian Games 7s Rugby Qualification – Achi-Nagoya Asian Games 2026
Under this new proposal, 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.
Qualification Pathway – Achi-Nagoya Asian Games 2026:
- Top 4 teams ARST 2025 season +
- The 8 teams from the ARSS 2025 season
We think this is a good idea and provides much better clarity and a timeframe for unions to work towards.
LA 2028 Olympic Games (and future Olympic qualifications)
Asia Rugby has expressed its desire to have this similar approach be considered for any regional qualification of teams from Asia towards the LA 28 Olympic Games.
More details on how this would work were not provided in the articles on Asia Rugby – but the released image below helps explain the qualification pathway.
Qualification Pathway – LA 2028 Olympic Games Rugby Sevens
Asia Rugby Qualifiers will include:
- Top 4 teams ARST 2027 season +
- The 8 teams from the ARSS 2027 season
Winners from women and men would qualify for LA 2028, while the teams places 2-3 would qualify for the global repechage tournament.
U18, U19 & U20 Rugby in Asia – Competition Framework Proposals 2024-2027
No concrete plans were detailed for these age-grade groups (see above for the proposed 2024-2027 tournament calendar), but Asia Rugby confirmed that “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”.
- U19 Men’s Championship XV
- U19 Men’s Division 1 XV
- U18 Boys and Girls Sevens
- U20 Men’s and Women Sevens
Currently, there is no U19 Women’s tournament in Asia.
World Rugby said it would give these proposals further consideration.
2024 Rugby Tournaments
- International Rugby Players – On The Changes Announced To Rugby Calendar.
- New Pacific Nations Cup Gets Underway In 2024.
- World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 Dates And Venues Announced.
- Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2024 Ticket Sales Tracking Well.