S'pore Reds set to dazzle

Singapore’s national rugby team (above) celebrating their 20-17 win over Malaysia in the Asian Five Nations Division II final in Petaling Jaya in June.

SINGAPORE - It is a tournament conceived in the last millennium, but there will be nothing old-fashioned about the way hosts Singapore will play when the Asian Tri-Nations see Taiwan and a developmental Hong Kong side come to town later this month.

Speaking at the unveiling of their 26-man squad for the return of the Tri-Nations (Aug 18-24 at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium) after a 14-year hiatus, Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) chief Low Teo Ping believes the tournament will not only showcase the national team's new brand of rugby, but also highlight the national sport association's effort to nurture an ecosystem around the game.

"The way the team are going to play will be quite surprising to some people, with (technical director) Inoke Afeaki injecting a new approach to the game," said Low.

"We are changing the way we play the game - and that has become almost a catchphrase within the organisation.

"The Asian Tri-Nations is one of the foundation blocks of the SRU's wider strategy to grow the game from both a playing base and a spectator base with properties that are homegrown and owned by the SRU."

Skipper Daniel Marc Chow believes Singapore's 20-17 win over Malaysia - a result that saw the Republic earn promotion to the Asian Five Nations (A5N) Division 1 - was a clear indication of just how the team will play.

"Previously there was a focus on set-pieces and, while we remain strong in line-outs and the like, we've got a more holistic approach now that incorporates a fast, high-tempo running game," said the flanker.

"We were forced to get out of our comfort zone and we're excited to play our new game in front of our home crowd."

Singapore beat Taiwan 32-27 in the inaugural Tri-Nations in 1999 and another win will see the country leapfrog the visitors, jumping two spots in the world rankings from 58th to 56th.

The excitement will not be confined to the pitch.

Games village

Yio Chu Kang Stadium will see a games village with food, drinks, fringe events and family activities.

The SRU's efforts to creating a rugby ecosystem are already underway.

The first Global International Rugby Board's Medical Educators course has already kicked off and a National Level Three coaching course, a match officials course, and first aid in rugby course are in the pipeline.

The SRU had earlier announced its decision to scour the Pacific Islands and Tonga, in particular, for young talent.

While it continues its search, Afeaki believes there has been enough progress to draw fans out later this month.

"This (tournament) is a nice opportunity to consolidate what the team have achieved at the A5N and it's a chance for the public to see them," said the former Tonga captain.

"I've seen a lot of rugby in my life and if they play like they did against Malaysia, they'll be exciting to watch."


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