S'pore to bank on all-local squad in Asian Rugby 7s

Singapore national players Daryl Chia (left) and Jay-Hykel Jailani posing after the tournament draw for the HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series-Singapore Sevens at Copthorne King’s Hotel on Tuesday. Both will be making their home debut in the series.

The Singapore sevens rugby team will not be sticking to the norm for the upcoming HSBC Asian Sevens series at Yio Chu Kang Stadium this weekend.

While the line-ups of Asian powerhouses Japan and Hong Kong contain a mix of both local and foreign-born players, the hosts will be putting up an all-Singaporean team.

This is to help achieve the Singapore Rugby Union's (SRU) target of a gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games.

Said SRU president Low Teo Ping: "We have put together a national squad comprising all born and bred Singaporeans.

"This will lay the groundwork for the sevens team that will go on to play in the 2015 Games when we host the event.

"It's very important that we stay true to our commitment of developing a team that is truly Singaporean."

The Republic's squad also comprise a number of young players - 12 of the 20 players called up are aged 23 and under.

Among the youngsters set to take to the field are 22-year-old Daryl Chia and 20-year-old Jay-Hykel Jailani.

Both will be making their debut at home in the 12-team Asian Sevens Series.

Chia played in the previous three legs in Malaysia, Thailand and India while Jay-Hykel missed the first leg in Malaysia.

Singapore finished 10th in Malaysia, 11th in Thailand and eighth in India.

The Singapore competition is the final stop of the four-leg Asian series, comprising four groups of three teams each.

The top two teams will qualify for the Hong Kong leg of the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series next year.

Coach Inoke Afeaki has set a top-six target for his youthful team, who average 23.3 years, although Singapore face an uphill task of bettering last year's eighth-placed finish.

Singapore, who are ranked overall 10th, have been drawn against Hong Kong (second) and China (11th).

Afaeki is confident his charges can put on a good show in front of their supporters.

Said the Fijian: "This is easily the toughest group, but it's a blessing in disguise.

"You have to beat the best to be the best.

"We gave Hong Kong a bit of a scare in India.

"If the referees do their job well - there were dubious calls previously - we will have a good game on our hands."

siangyee@sph.com.sg

Event details

What: HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens series 2013 - Singapore Sevens

Where: Yio Chu Kang Stadium

When: Saturday and Sunday

Teams: China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates

Tickets: Two-day tickets are priced at $10. Available at www.ticketbooth.com.sg

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