Hong Kong join Asian Five Nations
Hong Kong will figure prominently in the inaugural Asian Five Nations Championship to be held next April and May. The tournament, which will be run on the lines of the famous Six Nations, will be held annually and will replace the biennial Asian Rugby Football Tournament.
'It was decided at the last ARFU council [Asian Rugby Football Union] that a tournament on the lines of the Six Nations would replace the old ARFT competition, revealed Allan Payne, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's executive director, yesterday.
'But this will be better than the Six Nations in that there will be a promotion-relegation system in place giving hope to the other teams in Asia,' said Payne.
Hong Kong will join Asian champions Japan, South Korea, and probably Kazakhstan and the Arabian Gulf in the first Asian Five Nations which will be held over five consecutive weekends in April and May, 2008.
'There will be two home and two away games. The bottom-placed team in the competition will drop down to the next tier in 2009 while the top team in the second-tier competition will be promoted,' Payne said.
The Second Division is likely to comprise Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and Singapore. This division will hold a week-long competition in one city to decide the winner. The same format will hold for the lesser teams in Asia, giving them the hope of reaching the top tier if they play well.
'All the member unions have agreed to the principle of holding the Asian Five Nations. The details will be worked out at our next council meeting in Brunei in July,' Payne added.
Meanwhile Hong Kong's superb 27-20 victory over South Korea in the Asian Nations Series game last Sunday at King's Park has resulted in a move up the latest International Rugby Board world rankings.
Hong Kong improved from 30th place to 29th, while the Koreans have slipped from 23rd to 25th. Japan are Asia's top-ranked team in 18th place.