BUSAN, South Korea – While excitement grows for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the rugby community here in Asia is getting ready for the biggest event of the year. The "Asian 5 Nations" is an annual rugby tournament that pits the top five rugby teams in Asia in an all-out battle for bragging rights and and the chance at grabbing some good sponsorship.
This year's tournament is different –it carries with it an even greater reward: automatic qualification for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The 2010 Asian 5 Nations features Korea, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Arabian Gulf, and defending champion, Japan. The winner of the tournament will join Canada, Tonga, France, and host New Zealand in Group A of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Second place will face off against Uruguay to take the final spot in Group B. Korea hopes to avenge last year’s loss in the finals with a home-soil rematch against rival Japan in Daegu. The May 1st clash is a must-win for Korea if they hope to win the tournament and qualify for the World Cup.
Last week, Korea came blasting out of the gates in their first match against Hong Kong by putting up 8 points in the first 10 minutes of the match. The blast soon turrned to a blip as they gave up 32 unanswered points on the first day of the tournament. After the shocking 32-8 loss to Hong Kong, Korea hopes the home crowd in Daegu will give them the jump they’ll need to take down Asian powerhouse Japan.
The day's second match saw Kazakhstan trounce the Arabian Gulf 43-28. While Borat isn’t likely to lace-up for his home country, Korea will host Kazakhstan on May 22nd.
For rugby fans here in Korea, the Asian 5 Nations (A5N) is a great way to catch some high-class international rugby action. Korea is hosting two of its four games: Saturday, May 1st against Japan at Gyeongsang Stadium in Daegu at 2pm, and Saturday, May 22nd at Munhak Stadium in Incheon, at 2pm.
While the May 1st grudge match will be a great time to down many brews, sing some offensive songs and partake in general shananiginery, those looking to get involved in the action are in luck. Saturday, May 8th marks the first leg in the Korea 10s Rugby League, which brings together both Korean and expat teams from all over the country. The Korea 10s will feature teams from Seoul, Cheongju, Ulsan, Gumi, Pusan National University, Korean Maritime University, Gunsan, Jeonnam, and of course, Busan.
The Busan Bulls Rugby Club will be sending their players to represent Busan in a four day tournament. Host cities include Seoul (May 8), Cheongju (July 3), Busan (August 28), and Gumi (October 2).
Anyone looking to play or looking for more information: contact Pete Crozier (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
Photos by Ryan Seeley & Andrea Hunter