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03
SEP

There will be an extra reason for teams to do well in the first ranking leg of the Asian Rugby Sevens Series in Shanghai this weekend (September 4-5) – that is grabbing the psychological high ground before the upcoming Asian Games in Guangzhou in November.

The top six teams decided over the two ranking legs of the series – the other being the Borneo Sevens in October (30-31) – will win a ticket to the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens next March. But this time there is the added incentive of winning the mind games before the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

“All the top teams will be vying for honours at the Asian Games and the Asian Rugby Sevens Series will be a useful build-up to the Asian Games and also an indicator of how they will go in Guangzhou,” said Jarrad Gallagher, the International Rugby Board’s regional general manager for Asia.

Japan have been seeded number one at the 12-team Shanghai Sevens which will take place this weekend at the Shanghai Rugby Football Club. Defending champions South Korea are the second seeds while Hong Kong, runners-up to Japan at the East Asian Games final last December, are the third seeds. They each head one of the three preliminary pools.

With the corporate club season just about to kick-off in Japan, many of the top players have not been included but the favourites are confident that they still have enough firepower to lift the Cup title on Sunday.

“A number of their key players have not been released by the clubs, but I suspect the Japanese management is also taking this opportunity to look at a few new faces before the Asian Games,” Gallagher said.

Japan is pooled with Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in the preliminary round.

Defending champions South Korea will be looking to get its back on track in Shanghai. The former Asian powerhouse has struggled to find its feet in recent times. At the HSBC Asian Five Nations this year, South Korea finished bottom of the elite Top Five competition to be relegated to Division one next year. They also finished fifth in the Under-20 Asian Championship in Bangkok last week.

“The Koreans will most likely field a very strong side as they bid to regain their standing in Asia,” Gallagher said. “They need to do well in the next couple of events so as to regain their focus before the Asian Games.”

The Koreans are bracketed with Chinese Taipei, India and Guam on the opening day.

Hong Kong will also be missing a couple of key sevens specialists – Mark Wright and Rowan Varty – who are both plying their trade in Japan. They will also be missing last year’s captain and scrumhalf Jeff Wong who is still recovering from knee surgery.

But head coach Dai Rees is confident his team can go all the way. “Our aim is to contest the Cup final in every tournament we play in before the Asian Games,” Rees said.

Hong Kong are arguably in the hardest pool, drawn with China, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. China, as host of the Asian Games, will undoubtedly be intent on wining top honours in Guangzhou and have brought a full-strength squad to Shanghai.

After the opening round robin competition, the top two teams in each pool plus the best two third-placed teams will advance to the Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.

“It will be an interesting competition. While teams will undoubtedly want to do well, there will also be an element of not wanting to show their hands too early before the Asian Games,” Gallagher said.

Pool A: Japan (1), Thailand (6), Malaysia (7), Singapore (12).

Pool B: South Korea (2), Chinese-Taipei (5), India (8), Guam (=10).

Pool C: Hong Kong (3), China (4), Philippines (9), Sri Lanka (=10).

* figures in brackets is tournament seedings.

Match Day 1 – Saturday 4th September 2010

(Matches start at 09.40am local time)

Preliminary Round Pool A – JAPAN v SINGAPORE

Preliminary Round Pool A – THAILAND v MALAYSIA

Preliminary Round Pool B – KOREA v GUAM

Preliminary Round Pool B – CHINESE TAIPEI v I - NDIA

Preliminary Round Pool C – HONG KONG v SRI LANKA

Preliminary Round Pool C – CHINA v PHILIPPINES

Preliminary Round Pool A – JAPAN v MALAYSIA

Preliminary Round Pool A – THAILAND v SINGAPORE

Preliminary Round Pool B – KOREA v INDIA

Preliminary Round Pool B - CHINESE TAIPEI v GUAM

Preliminary Round Pool C – HONG KONG v PHILIPPINES

Preliminary Round Pool C – CHINA V SRI LANKA

Preliminary Round Pool A – JAPAN v THAILAND

Preliminary Round Pool A – MALAYSIA v SINGAPORE

Preliminary Round Pool B – KOREA v CHINESE TAIPEI

Preliminary Round Pool B – INDIA v GUAM

Preliminary Round Pool C – HONG KONG v CHINA

Preliminary Round Pool C – PHILIPPINES v SRI LANKA

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