IRB: S'pore still in race for Super Rugby franchise
Two weeks ago, a report in Australia claimed Japan had got the nod over Singapore to field a team for the Super Rugby competition, the prestigious southern hemisphere tournament that currently features teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Yesterday, International Rugby Board (IRB) vice-chairman Oregan Hoskins rubbished the claim.
Speaking at a press conference at the National Stadium, Hoskins, who is the president of the South African Rugby Union and also a member of Sanzar, the governing body for Super Rugby, said the decision on a new team was supposed to have been made early this month, but has now been postponed to next month.
Japan and Singapore are vying to form a franchise for the competition when the league expands to 18 teams in 2016.
While he did not say why it was postponed, Hoskins did confirm, however, that Japan's bid included a proposal for their team to play a number of "home" games in Singapore's National Stadium, should they win the bid.
It is a clever move by the Japanese, as Hoskins said: "Sanzar are in serious discussions at the moment. Obviously, both bids are very attractive options.
"It would be a win-win situation if Japan is awarded a spot and Singapore hosts some of the matches."
In February, the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) confirmed its interest in fielding a professional team in the 2016 competition.
With no teams here good enough for the world-class competition, the SRU joined forces with Hong Kong-based Carinat Sports Marketing, who own the Asia-Pacific Dragons - an invitational side that showcases some of the continent's best players.
The new 55,000-seater National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub opened its doors in June when it hosted the World Club 10s.
It will be the home of the Dragons, who are coached by former All Blacks star and captain Tana Umaga, should Singapore win the bid.
Hoskins was speaking at a conference which also included IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, CEO Brett Gosper and SRU president Low Teo Ping.
The executive members of the IRB are in town for the governing body's annual meeting which concludes today, when it will be revealed if Singapore's bid to host a leg of the Sevens World Series from 2016 is successful.
Singapore last staged a leg of the Sevens from 2002 to 2006 at the old National Stadium.
The two-day, 16-team event features powerhouses such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England and Fiji.
The Republic has also expressed its interest in staging the Sevens World Cup in 2018 - if successful, it will be the first time it would be held in South-east Asia - and that decision will be made next May.
"The goal (of the IRB) is to expand into Asia, especially Singapore, which is a fantastic city and now has a brand new stadium," said Lapasset.
"Rugby wants to be part of that and it might get an opportunity with the 7s bid... Singapore now has the capacity to run big tournaments, both on and off the pitch."
It is understood that officials from the British Lions were also in town recently to check out the National Stadium in view of bringing the all-star squad here next year for a friendly match.
The panel confirmed that such plans are in the pipeline, but did not comment further on who the opponents will be or when it will be staged.
World Rugby, for everyone
After more than a century governing the sport, the International Rugby Board (IRB) is changing its name to World Rugby on Nov 19.
The impetus for the name change is the mission to globalise the sport, said IRB CEO Brett Gosper.
Gosper, who is in town for the IRB's two-day annual meeting which ends tonight, said that World Rugby connects everyone around the globe.
The governing body was initially founded in 1886 as the International Rugby Football Board by the Ireland, Scotland and Wales rugby unions before England joined in 1890. It changed its name to the IRB in 1998.
"The name change for us is to be better understood," he told The New Paper, on the sidelines of a press conference at the National Stadium yesterday.
"Our goal now is to help develop the game in Asia, and we are working on having a global rugby calendar that will include tournaments and matches in this region.
"This can't take off before the 2019 World Cup in Japan because there are too many contractual obligations.
"But a high priority is to enhance the accessibility and visibility of rugby so that when the World Cup comes to Japan, people in this region will know the sport well."
By expanding its Get Into Rugby mass participation programme across Asia, the IRB aims to have one million new players across the continent by 2019 - the same year Japan will become the first Asian country to host the sport's biggest and most coveted event, the World Cup.
The tournament is held once every four years and England will host the 2015 World Cup.
Gosper added that Singapore can leverage on the Japan World Cup by being part of the build-up to the tournament.
"It is possible that Singapore host a few warm-up matches for the World Cup," he said.
"That's up to the teams, of course, but I would say that this is a terrific destination for such games."