The Asian qualifiers for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will take pride of place on this year’s Asian Five Nations calendar which kicks off on Saturday, the Asian Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday. The champions of the Top 5 tournament will earn an automatic spot as in a daunting Pool B with South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and Americas 2 at next year’s RWC in England. The runners-up will enter a two-stage repêchage with the first match against Uruguay played in the home country of the team with the highest international ranking at the time. The winners of the first stage will enter a second repêchage to be played on a home-and-away basis in September and October 2014. Japan enjoys Asia’s highest ranking at 13th, with South Korea at 23rd and Hong Kong in 25th place. Uruguay are presently ranked 20th in the world. “We are excited at the prospect of another year of strong growth in Asian Rugby,” said ARFU president Trevor Gregory. “The culmination of the four-year Rugby World Cup qualification cycle will add an additional layer of depth and excitement for the season ahead.” Japan are again heavily favoured to advance to their eighth consecutive RWC as the Asian champions. Japan have not lost a match in the A5N era and coach Eddie Jones’ side are keen to continue that lofty tradition. Jones has called upon Japan Rugby Top League Rookies of the Year Keita Inagaki and Kyosuke Horie among seven uncapped players named in an initial 40-man squad. Five overseas-based players – Shota Horie, Fumiaki Tanaka, Male Sa'u, Harumichi Tatekawa and Takahashi Kikutani – were all named in the squad, as were veteran forwards Hitoshi Ono, Luke Thompson and Kensuke Hatakeyama, who have 170 caps between them. Japan open their qualifying campaign away to the Philippines before hosting Sri Lanka in Nagoya and then facing second seeds South Korea in Incheon. Japan will close their campaign against Hong Kong at Tokyo's National Stadium. Hong Kong will have a daunting task of collecting three important results in the opening weeks of the campaign as they host Philippines then travel to Colombo before facing off against South Korea in what has historically been a battle for the runners-up position in Asia. Hong Kong has included 10 new caps in their 40-man training squad for the A5N. Hong Kong’s most recent test match action came last December when they twice dispatched Belgium in a series of home friendlies. This year’s Division I tournament will be contested by the United Arab Emirates, who dropped from last year’s Top 5, Kazakhstan (runners-up in Division I behind promoted Sri Lanka in 2013), Chinese Taipei and 2013 Division II winners Singapore. In a change to the standard format, the tournament will be contested over two single match days with UAE hosting Singapore on April 23 and Kazakhstan facing Chinese Taipei in a neutral venue match that will be played at HKFC as a warm-up to the Hong Kong-South Korea clash on May 10. Both match winners will retain their position in Division I next season, joining the two bottom-placed teams from this year’s Top 5, after ARFU announced that the elite end of the 2015 men’s fifteens competition would be restructured to feature a Top 3 competition played on a home-and-away basis. The new structure for 2015 will feature the top three teams from this year’s A5N contesting a full home-and-away series, while the two bottom placed teams from the 2014 Top 5 competition will retain spots as the first and second seeds in the 2015 Division I competition, joined by the winners of this year’s Division I matches. Following the completion of the Top 3 competition in 2015, the lowest team amongst the three will face a single-match play-off against the top team in Division I to determine spots in the Top 3 competition for 2016. This year’s Division II tournament will be hosted in Qatar with the A5 returning to Doha for the first time since 2008. The matches will see Qatar, one of the fastest rising teams in Asian rugby, host Thailand, Malaysia and Iran at the Al Arabi Stadium. In recognition of the increasing competitiveness of Asian rugby, last year’s Division III and Division IV teams have been restructured into a Division III East and West competition for 2014. Division III East will be held in Vientiane, Laos during the ARFU mid-year council meeting in May. Laos will host Guam, Indonesia and China. Division III West will be played in Lahore, Pakistan. Lebanon, India and Uzbekistan will all take part in the Division III West tournament in June. With the combining of teams at Division III level, the teams from last year’s Division V competition (Brunei and Cambodia) have been elevated to Division IV, which will also feature Mongolia, marking their first A5N appearance since 2011. The three-way round robin will be held in Brunei. The elite Asian Women’s 4 Nations (AW4N) championship also returns to the calendar this year and will be held in Hong Kong. The AW4N features top ranked Asian women’s 15s team Kazakhstan, second-ranked Japan, third-ranked Singapore and fourth-ranked Hong Kong, playing in a full round robin tournament over eight days (May 18-24). ARFU also announced the host unions and dates for the upcoming ARFU Asian Sevens Series, which will be held from August to October, a window that encompasses the Asian Games Rugby Sevens competition in South Korea. The tournament hosts have been confirmed as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. Hong Kong and Shanghai will host both men’s and women’s competitions, while the Kuala Lumpur Sevens will host men’s teams only. The three ranking events on this year’s series will focus on the core teams competing with 11 men’s teams invited to join the hosts in each destination. Women’s participation will vary from eight to 12 teams in the two tournaments planned for 2014.