Japan, PE add Sevens spice
Johannesburg - The IRB has announced the expansion of the 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 was 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 per cent 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.
"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," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"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," added Lapasset.
The IRB is committed to the development of Rugby across Asia and working in collaboration with the Asian Rugby Football Union, 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.
"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," said Japan Rugby Football Union chairman Tatsuzo Yabe.
"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" added Yabe.
SA Rugby Union chief executive Jurie Roux was equally excited: "We're very excited about the changes to the HSBC Sevens World Series schedule".
"The new stops will definitely add some spice to the series and any team that want to win the title at the end of the season will have to perform consistently well.
"The South African leg in Port Elizabeth is also something that we're looking forward to."
The SA leg will be held in Port Elizabeth for the first time in a move from George, where it was held for the last seven years.
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.
2011/12 Sevens World Series
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
Round 9. 12-13 May 2012 - England.