S'pore vies for top-tier rugby

S'pore vies for top-tier rugby

Singapore will find out this week if it can take a major step towards becoming a choice destination for rugby's premier teams and tournaments, as it hosts a high-level meeting of global rugby administrators.

The Straits Times has learnt that executive members of the International Rugby Board (IRB) - in town for the governing body's annual meeting - will decide later this week on the Republic's bid to host a leg of the Sevens World Series from 2016.

Of the more than 60 delegates from heavyweights including New Zealand, England and South Africa gathered here, many have toured the new National Stadium, which hosted the World Club 10s championship in June.

It is understood that key British Lions officials - including tour manager John Spencer and former Wales international Gareth Davies - viewed the 55,000-seat facility and are interested in bringing the all-star squad here next year for a friendly match.

Also on the agenda this week is the task of formulating a schedule around Japan's hosting of the 15-a-side Rugby World Cup in 2019 - the first time the quadrennial showpiece will be hosted by an Asian country.

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping said there is a "high possibility" of participating nations such as New Zealand and Australia playing tune-up games at the National Stadium en route to the competition.

He said: "We are delighted that the IRB chose to meet here to make big decisions for the sport globally.

"Hopefully, the result of this will be the growth of the game in Asia, especially in Singapore."

Singapore staged a leg of the Sevens World Series from 2002 to 2006 at the old National Stadium.

The two-day, 16-team event featured powerhouses like Australia, New Zealand, England and Fiji.

There are nine stops in the current series, including three in Asia.

The IRB plans to include up to three new legs for the 2015-2016 season, with Canada and France also rumoured to be on the shortlist.

Although the national team are 59th among 102 sides in the IRB world rankings, Singapore aims to punch above its weight and grow the sport by hosting glamour friendlies and high-level competitions.

The Maori All Blacks - which comprise the best New Zealand players of Maori descent - will face invitational outfit Asia Pacific Dragons at the National Stadium on Nov 15.

The Republic has also expressed its interest in staging the Sevens World Cup in 2018 - the first time it would be held in South-east Asia. The IRB is expected to make a decision in May next year.

It is thought that the candidature for the 2018 event would offer a good lead-in for the 15s World Cup in Japan a year later.

This article was first published on October 08, 2014.
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