Tough start for S'pore's rugby boys

The Singapore men's team were eyeing victory in the inaugural South-east Asia (SEA) 7s final last month, but were tripped up in the end by a solid Thailand performance, losing 19-5.

The Republic's 15s rugby men have now been presented with a chance, albeit rather fortuitously, against the best in the region and they are eager to seize the opportunity, starting today against Sri Lanka.

Having competed in the Asian Rugby Championship's Division 1 last year, the Republic's men were relegated and pencilled in to play in Division 2 this campaign.

But they were bumped up to Division 1 again, after Kazakhstan withdrew.

Starting today, the week-long round-robin Division 1 tournament - featuring hosts Malaysia (ranked 58th in the world), Sri Lanka (39th), Philippines (54th) and Singapore (59th) - will be played in Kuala Lumpur.  

Singapore captain Gaspar Tan told The New Paper that the team are aiming for a good performance against the Sri Lankans at the Kiara Sports Annex of the Royal Selangor Club.

"The notice that we were promoted actually excited us, and we want to prove ourselves again in this division. Sri Lanka could be the favourites in this division, so we have nothing to lose and just need to give our best shot (today)," said the hooker who owns 22 test caps.  

The Division 2 tournament is scheduled for May 18-21 and competing in the Division 1 contest forced the Singapore team to shorten preparations by a week.

The winning team in the Division 1 tourney will open up the possibility of moving into the top-tier Tri-Nations Division, which features Asian powerhouses Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, but promotion will be earned only by overcoming the bottom side of that division in a play-off.

But the Singapore side are taking it one game at a time.

"We expect (Sri Lanka) to bring their hard-running game against us, and we need to work together to contain them and make the right decisions," said Tan.

After today's fixture, Singapore will face the Philippines on Wednesday, with the Causeway Derby coming three days later.