The Asian Rugby Championship, or ARC, is an annual rugby union competition held amongst Asian national rugby sides, with in the ARFU region. The current format is Asia's third adapted Asian competition, as it is the successor to the original Asian Rugby Championship (1969-2007) and Asian Five Nations (2008-2014). Predominantly, the overall winner of the Tri Nations division is seen as the Asian champion, by virtue of that Division including the top three Asian teams in each year. Division 1 includes the next four teams and Division 2 including the next four. Division three is separated further to accommodate as many teams as possible in one Division. Each of the West, East and South Central division includes three teams.
Japan is the most successful team in the combined competitions from 1969, securing 25 out of the possible 31 titles, and since 2005 Japan, have been consecutively the Asian Champions, a title they still hold, having won the 2014 Asian Five Nations.
The Asian Rugby Championship was initially formed in 1969 when Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Thailand contested for the inaugural Asian Rugby Championship title. Japan were the champions on this occasion. It wasn't until 1982 when South Korea became just the second team to win the title in 8 attempts, and between 1969 and 2007, Japan and Korea were the only victors of the competition. The teams competing in that competition did range year to year, with as many as 12 teams competing, with other Asian teams joining the competition. Between 1969 and 1996, only a single Division split between 2 groups existed. But in 1998, a second Division was introduced as the game began to grow in Asia. In 2003, a second Asian competition was formed in the likes of Asian Rugby Series, a competition that ran along aide the Rugby Championship to help determine Division allocation. With more teams therefore competing, a third Division was added to the competition. This dual-competition ran until 2007, as in 2008, the ARFU merged both the Rugby Championship and Rugby Series into one tournament, The Asian Five Nations. In this competition, a promotion-relegation format was introduced, with the winner of Division 2 replacing the loser of Division 1, and the winner of Division 1 replacing the loser of the Five Nations. For its inaugural years, no Division 3 took place, though several regional Divisions were implemented across Asia. During the time of this competition, the main Five Nations Division was heavily dominated by Hong Kong and Japan who are the only three teams never to have been relegated to a lower divisions.
The current format sees the competition separated into various divisions, with a promotion and relegation format operated into each division. However, this only applies to Division 1 through 3, as the loser of the Tri Nations Division will play a play-off match against the winner of Division 1 to determine the third Tri Nations team for the following year. Where as the winners of Division 2 will automatically replace the loser of Division 1, and the two bottom placed teams in Division 2 will both be relegated down to one of the three regions in Division 3; West, East or South Central. Each of the three regions are made up three teams, and as of 2015, only the winners of the South Central and East divisions can be both be promoted to Division 2. This is because, the teams competing in the West region, are not considered as full members by World Rugby.
In the main Tri Nations division, each team will play each other on an home and away basis, picking up 5 points for a win and 3 for a draw. 2 additional points are up for grabs through bonus points, but in order to earn them, teams need to score 4 or more tries in a match, or when losing, lose by 7 points or less. For all Divisions, 1 through to 3, nations will only play each other once, with one of the included teams hosting all matches at home. These teams will also aim to pick points up for a win or draw, and gain bonus points. For all divisions, the team with the most table points wins their respective divisions, and if possible, earns promotion to the next division.