Singapore national rugby union team

Singapore national rugby union team

Union Singapore Rugby Union
Coach(es) James Forester, Casey Mees
Captain(s) Gaspar Tan
First international
 Malaysia 13–26 Singapore
(6 November 1972)
Largest win
Singapore 85–0 India 
(26 October 1998)
Largest defeat
 Hong Kong 164–13 Singapore
(27 October 1994)

The Singapore national rugby union team represents Singapore in international rugby union. They have yet to make their debut at the Rugby World Cup, though since the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Singapore have been participating in qualification competitions.

History of the National Team : Early Beginings

Singapore Rugby has its spiritual roots on the hallowed turf on the Padang, located in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. The Singapore Cricket Club is said to have been one of the first rugby clubs in Singapore when employees from the British East India Company brought the game to Singapore. For many years in the 1800s and early 1900s the Singapore team that played against other Malayan states was made up of expatriates who were working in Singapore and army servicemen based in Singapore at the time. With such a large core of servicemen making the "national team" of the time, a Singapore "Civillians XV" also played many games representing the island state.

Up to the 1960s, this representation of Singapore Civilians represented the national team that competed in the annual Malaya Cup competition that saw states from around Malaya (now Malaysia) and included Singapore. This was for the forerunner to the modern day Agong Cup that is currently organised by the Malaysian Rugby Union. This side was made up predominantly of expatriates from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In 1969, How Wai Chew and Leow Kim Liat, who were both at the time just out of School, were selected into the Singapore Civilians, making them the first local born Asians to play for Singapore at any level.

Singapore's first rugby team under the banner of Singapore Select was formed in 1971, when an expat team of NZ & British servicemen and 3 Asians were assembled to play against a visiting All England team at the Jalan Besar stadium. This was the first time that a Singapore Select Team was picked.

The same day also saw the birth of the Under-23 Singapore national team when it played against Malaysia in the "Anchor Cup" curtain raiser match to the England game. The Under-23 team was made up of all national local boys from the Armed forces, Police force, local clubs and schools.

This was indeed the birth of Singapore Rugby. In 1972 Singapore Rugby Union under the presidency of ASP Niaz Mohd Shah took part in the 3rd Asian Rugby Union Tournament held in HK. The team was represented by full local national boys from the various clubs in Singapore. The 1972 team was led by captain, Leow Kim Liat who played at fly-half and coached by Englishman, Mike Jeffries from the SCC. Singapore finished a credible 4th placing in that tournament behind Japan, S Korea and Thailand.

Singapore rugby progressed on and Singapore participated in the 1975 SEAP (South East Asian Peninsular Games) held in BKK, where only 3 countries took part then. However Singapore lost to both Thailand and Malaysia, emerged 3rd with a bronze medal. In 1977 Singapore Rugby team took part in the SEA Games held in KL, Malaysia and once again there were the same 3 countries (Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore) as in 1975 taking part. This time round Singapore went one step better than their 1975 performance by winning the silver medal after beating hosts Malaysia, but losing to Thailand in a rain sodden finals match. In 1978, Singapore rugby achieved its best ever performance in their history annals under Mr Howard Cashin's presidency and coach Mr Natahar Bava. Singapore won a historic MRU Cup victory in the annual MRU (M'sian Rugby Union) tournament after 44 years of participation under the label of Singapore Civilians which was actually the national team made up of local boys from the 1977 SEA Games squad. The Singapore team beat the RNZIR (Royal New Zealand Infantry Battalion) Singapore based team in the semi-finals on the way to the finals and that game was termed as the "epic final" in the eyes of all true rugby followers. Later that same year Singapore took part in the 6th Asian Rugby tournament again held in KL and emerged with their best ever result to this day with a 3rd placing behind powerhouses, Japan and S Korea when they beat Thailand in a cliff hanger 16-15 3rd placing game. This was the best showing ever by an all local Singaporean team! The 1978 team was led by ASP Jarmal Singh of the Police Force as the captain. This was the highest ranking Singapore had ever achieved in Asia to this present day.

For its efforts and achievements SNOC awarded Singapore Rugby with the Sportsman of the Year 1978 award to pack leader, Song Koon Poh, Coach of the year to Natahar Bava and the entire 1978 team as the Sports Team of the year. This was a "Grand Slam" sweep of all 3 major awards in the sports accolades except for the Sportswoman award. The Singapore team went on to repeat another MRU Cup triumph under coach Natahar Bava in 1982, but 1978 was indeed the year Singapore achieved rugby history by being 3rd in Asia first time ever and winning the MRU Cup after 44 years.

Singapore also excelled in the 7s game during this period. The team under Natahar Bava again achieved its best ever 7s game results during 1978/1979/1980 in the ever popular HK 7s tournament. In 1978 an all Asian Singapore 7s squad lost to an all expats Middle East champions, Bahrain 0-10 in the Plate Finals, but Singapore's best ever rugby 7s results was in 1979 when it qualified for the top 8 teams Cup quarter finals losing out eventually to Western Samoa 4-16, with her try in that game scored by the flying Sikh, Jarmal Singh. In 1980 again Singapore lost out in the Plate Finals to Japan by 0-40 in a flooded rain sodden game.

Rugby World Cup Qualifiers

Singapore first tried to qualify for a World Cup for the 1995 tournament in South Africa, taking part in the Asia qualifiers. Singapore played out of Group B in Round 1, though they lost their three fixtures and did not advance to Round 2. Singapore attempted to qualify for the 1999 Rugby World Cup in Wales also; playing in Round 1 of Asia, but losing both of their fixtures against Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Singapore finished second in the final standings of Pool A of Round 1 in attempting to qualify for the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, and did not advance to Round 2. They finished second in their group in qualification for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France as well, losing one match and winning one.

Makeup of the National Team

The current makeup of the National Team sees a balanced mix of expatriates who have fulfilled World Rugby eligibility rules and local born and bred Singaporean players. The entirety of the team is based in Singapore, and are selected from all the Premiership clubs that play in the top division of the local league organised by the Singapore Rugby Union. While there has been past selection debates on an over reliance of expatriate players, the local development programe (National Rugby Academy) has seen much success at age group level and hence seen more local players through the ranks. More and more local players and give then opportunity to shine on the