After their shock relegation from the top flight in 2010, none of Korea’s Division I competitors should be in any doubt that the new boys are determined to keep their visit to just one year. Hosting the Division I competition in 2011, Korea will be focusing its efforts on a return to winning ways from the team used to being spoken of in the same breath as Japan.
Korea will be relying on a cohort of players who play professionally in Japan, such as second row You Young Nam, named to the Top League first XV in 2010.
Under new coach Des Thornton, the Rugby Lions of Singapore are gunning to regain the A5N Top 5 place they last held in 2009.
To reach their goal, the Lions will need to get past regional rivals Malaysia before facing Korea, one of the historic powerhouses of Asian rugby on a rebuilding mission of its own in 2011.
Malaysian rugby is on the move and is enjoying a run of strong results after winning promotion to Division I from the 2009 Division II tournament in Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysians overturned a heavily favoured China XV at home in 2009, despite conceding 34 places on the IRB World Rankings to their Chinese opponents. In their opening match at Division I level, Malaysia narrowly missed out on upsetting its number one rival, Singapore, who edged them 22 – 20.
Behind a large but mobile pack, a canny pair of halfbacks and a pacey group of locals and Fijians out wide, Malaysia will be intent on continuing its ascent of Asian rugby’s ladder and finally staking their claim to Top 5 glory in 2011. Malaysia will be relishing the chance to amend their narrow loss last year in Singapore as they open the Division I against the Rugby Lions – a match that promises to kick off 2011 A5N action with a bang!
One of the surprise packages of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations, the Philippines join Japan as the only team to remain undefeated in HSBC A5N competition since the tournament’s inception in 2008. The Volcanoes ascent has been anything but rocky after winning the Guam Regional in 2008, the Division III competition in 2009 and the Division II competition in India last year. While the team is preparing for an explosive debut in Division I, the challenge has grown immensely with their participation against teams of the calibre of Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.
Mixing the homegrown pride of Pacquiao with players of Filipino heritage drawn from some of the world’s leading rugby nations, the Philippines Volcanoes have erupted on to the Asian rugby scene.
Under Filipino coach Expo Mejia who has worked with the Waratahs in Australia and other premier international club sides, the Philippines Volcanoes will need a perfectly timed explosion in their opening bout versus Korea if they hope to shake up Division I in 2011.
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