The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced the expansion of the HSBC Sevens World Series, with Japan joining as the ninth venue for the upcoming 2011/2012 Series.
With 100 days to go until the start of the new Series, Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Stadium has been announced as the venue for the seventh round, one week after the renowned tournament in Hong Kong.
The expansion into Japan is another major boost for Asian Rugby, which has experienced an 18% increase in participation since Rugby World Cup 2007.
The continent is also building towards staging Rugby World Cup for the first time, when Japan will host the 2019 tournament.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “I am delighted that Tokyo is joining the international roster of tournaments that comprise the record-breaking HSBC Sevens World Series, which last season was watched in 147 countries in 16 languages. I am sure that the Japan Rugby Football Union will host a successful and popular event that Japan, Asia and the global Rugby family will be proud of.
“These are extremely exciting times for Rugby in Asia, where interest in Rugby has been boosted by Japan securing hosting rights for Rugby World Cup 2019 and Olympic inclusion. The IRB is committed to ensuring all the processes are in place for the continued development of the sport throughout the Region so that even more men, women and children can enjoy Rugby.
“We very much look forward to working in partnership with the Japan Rugby Football Union to deliver an event that will benefit Asian Rugby and mark another significant milestone as we countdown to Sevens’ Olympic Games debut in Rio in 2016."
The IRB is committed to the development of Rugby across Asia and working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU), it is currently investing over US$3 million annually in development, high performance and tournament programmes across Asia. The awarding of this Tournament to Japan is a key step in the process.
Chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU), Tatsuzo Yabe, said: "It is with great pleasure that we welcome the prestigious HSBC Sevens World Series to Japan. I am sure that the event will be extremely popular, especially at a time when there is unprecedented growth in the Olympic form of the Game.
“We are determined to take this opportunity to demonstrate the appetite for Rugby in Japan and give international fans a taste of what to expect at Rugby World Cup 2019. We want to deliver an outstanding Sevens tournament that Japan and Asia can be proud of. To our visitors from overseas, please come and enjoy the tournament and witness Japan’s strong unity through these tough times. We are truly looking forward to welcoming the international rugby community for the HSBC Sevens World Series.”
Japan's inclusion signals the first expansion of the World Series since HSBC was appointed title sponsor.
Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship HSBC Holdings, said: “Following on from the record growth in attendance and broadcast coverage for the first year of the HSBC Sevens World Series, it is fantastic news that the Series is expanding to nine international tournaments. The addition of a leg in Japan, the week after the hugely popular Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, will give the sport of Rugby Sevens a real opportunity to be showcased across Asia.
“HSBC looks forward to the continued growth of the HSBC Sevens World Series over the coming years, as the Rugby Sevens world builds towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.”
Last season's HSBC Sevens World Series reached its bold attendance target by attracting over 500,000 fans around the world, and reached 332 million homes.
The 2011/12 Series will kick off and climax at different venues, with Australia's Gold Coast set to host the opener on 25-26 November 2011 and London's Twickenham Stadium the climax on 12-13 May 2012.
HSBC Sevens World Series 2011/12
Round 1 - 25-26 November 2011 - Australia
Round 2 - 2-3 December 2011 - Dubai
Round 3 - 9-10 December 2011 - South Africa
Round 4 - 3-4 February 2012 - New Zealand
Round 5 - 10-12 February 2012 - USA
Round 6 - 23-25 March 2012 - Hong Kong
Round 7 - 31 March - 1 April 2012 - Japan
Round 8 - 5-6 May 2012 - Scotland
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