Singaporean eyes spot in Canada's U-18 rugby squad
Singaporean eyeing spot in Canada's Under-18 rugby squad
The name James Hendrie may not ring a bell, but it is one that belongs, at the very least, in a side note in the annals of Singapore's sports history.
Hendrie is the only person born in Singapore to don the famous shirt of the All Blacks, when he turned out for the team in 1970.
Singapore is also the birthplace of an Olympic rugby winner.
Chloe Dalton struck gold with Australia's women's sevens side at the Rio Games in August.
The Republic may soon have another noteworthy rugby export in 17-year-old Lucas Portillo, who is studying at Brentwood College School in British Columbia, Canada.
He was invited to attend a training camp with Canada's Under-18 rugby side early last month.
Lucas had earlier played for Singapore's Under-16s and also turned out for the British Columbia Under-17 side that won their division at the Vancouver 7s earlier this year.
The son of a Brazilian father and a Singaporean mother, he can play as an inside or outside centre.
Speaking to The New Paper, he said: "Playing rugby here (in Canada) has been an unreal experience.
Although Lucas enjoyed playing football since he was three, he was spotted as a talented rugby player in middle school by a New Zealand physical education teacher... Playing this sport has improved his sense of self even though he didn't grow up in a rugby-oriented environment.Nelson Portillo, Lucas' Brazilian father
"I was one of the bigger players on the team back home, but now I'm one of the smaller ones.
"It's a new different style of rugby over here, we focus more on game structure and tend to score off set pieces more.
"In Asia, we play what's in front of us and it's based on individual skills but, here, we are expected to be a team player... Not only being an outstanding individual, but also an outstanding team player."
Canada is 18th in World Rugby's latest rankings, with Singapore in 59th spot.
Portillo hopes to make the final cut for the Canadian side that will face the likes of France and Georgia next April.
"The high level of competition is a threat for me. For my position, there are at least 15 other players and only three strong players can be selected," he said.
Singapore Rugby Union's technical director Inoke Afeaki is keeping an eye on Portillo.
"He's a Singapore citizen who is a passionate athlete and is backed by passionate parents - we are tracking him," the Tongan said.
"It's great that he is getting a rugby education in a tougher environment. It's always great to have our athletes go abroad and experience a higher level of training and matches.
"And, of course, we'd be delighted to have those athletes come back to play for us."
While he is hoping to extend his stay in Canada to further his rugby education, Lucas will return for National Service and is considering a career in the army.
"While a career in the Singapore military is a plan, rugby is always my first choice and I still harbour the hope of playing professionally," he said.
"Thank God both my parents are heavily supportive of this dream of mine."