The importance of being China was once again underlined in no uncertain terms by International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Vernon Pugh who revealed that the mainland would feature prominently in the world's newest tournament to hit the stands next year. The Super Powers Cup, organised by the IRB, will be played annually between China, Japan, Russia and the United States on a home-and-away basis. 'We will provide China with a new competition next year. It will be a fantastic introduction to rugby at an international level for the Chinese game and for the Chinese people,' Pugh said yesterday. Speaking by phone from Beijing, where he is the chief guest at this weekend's Beijing Sevens, the sixth leg of the IRB World Sevens Series, Pugh disclosed that the world governing body would continue to assist China's rapid rugby development. 'This new tournament is one way of fast-tracking rugby in China. Given that China became IRB members only in 1997, in this short space of time they have made good progress,' Pugh said. 'We will continue to provide funds and technical assistance. The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has been very useful and continues to help us with the development of rugby in China. 'China is considered as one of our key targets for development as it is the biggest country in the world in terms of population. We have recently appointed an IRB regional development manager for Asia who will be based in Hong Kong. While his role will be to cover all of Asia, China will be a major part of his work.' Aberdeen and Hong Kong back-rower Jarad Gallagher was last week appointed to the new position of rugby development manager for Asia. Gallagher takes up his new job in May. Pugh's presence itself in Beijing this weekend is testament to the importance the IRB is placing on the mainland. The long-term goal is to get rugby into the Olympics with the 2008 Beijing Games being targeted. This was the reason the IRB moved the China leg of the World Sevens Series from Shanghai last year to Beijing. 'The move to Beijing is twofold. In our own right we want a tournament in China and what better place than Beijing? But the added benefit is that the Beijing Sevens will be a good introduction of rugby to the Chinese Olympic Committee and the Beijing 2008 Games officials. We have invited a number of top officials this weekend and we will be meeting them. While Beijing is not the deciding factor when the decision is taken as to whether rugby should be a medal sport at the Olympics, it will be influential,' Pugh said. The final decision on rugby union's bid to join the Olympic Games will be made before the end of this year according to Pugh. 'The new Olympic president Jacques Rogge has created a new commission to look into which new sports should be in the 2008 Games. We will be submitting a report and making a final representation to members of that committee in November this year. I think rugby has a reasonably good chance of becoming a new Olympic sport.' But not leaving anything to chance, the IRB is vigorously courting China - hence the Beijing Sevens and next year's Super Powers Cup. Pugh said a final decision on whether Australia would be the sole 2003 World Cup host would only be made next month. 'I don't want to comment on what is going on. All I can say is that the Australian Rugby Union has withdrawn the invitation to its counterparts in New Zealand to be a co-host,' Pugh said. 'They have 21 days to present an alternative proposal for the running of the tournament.' The Rugby World Cup board will meet on Tuesday in Cardiff and the main topic of discussion will be if Australia can host the tournament on its own after the New Zealand Rugby Football Union attached conditions to the Sub Host Union Agreement which the IRB found unacceptable. 'But there will be no final decision on Tuesday,' Pugh said.