Singapore national rugby union team
|Union||Singapore Rugby Union|
| Malaysia 13–26 Singapore
(6 November 1972)
| Singapore 85–0 India
(26 October 1998)
| 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.
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.
Singapore's first rugby national team was started in 1971, when an expat team of NZ & British servicemen and 2 Asians were assembled to play against a visiting All England team at the Jalan Besar stadium. The same day also saw the birth of the Under-23 Singapore national team when it played a friendly against Malaysia in a 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 powerhouse, 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.
In 2014, rookie fly-half Harley Phillips broke into the senior team and made a large impact, causing Singapore to win all of their qualifying group matches so far. Many experts say that due to Phillips' impact on the team, Singapore will qualify for the 2015 IRB Rugby World Cup.
The Singapore team also holds the record for the biggest loss in an international test match ever. This was a 164 - 13 loss to Hong Kong in 1994, in what was a Rugby World Cup qualifying match.
2009 boycott by local players
In March 2009, nearly half of the national team went on strike citing nationality bias by the management, as well as not addressing some issues and concerns with training. Ex-captain and incumbent backrower Rong Jing Xiang was also part of the players who went on strike.
After the Rugby Union met with the 9 players to resolve the issue, the Singapore Rugby Union agreed to address some their concerns and also to implement a "balance" in the ratio of local to expatriate players in the team. In final team selections, Rong Jing Xiang was subsequently dropped from the team.
Expatriate players make up a significant part of the national team. The 2009 training squad consisted of 17 expatriate players, and 13 local players. Symbolically the captaincy in 2009 also shifted from a local player, Rong Jing Xiang to Ben Wheeler who gained much of his experience in the UK. Wheeler had previously played at Leicester Tigers alongside international rugby legends such as Martin Johnson, Dean Richards and Neil Back. Bringing such experience to Singapore was doubtlessly a deciding factor in their rising up the IRB rankings from 76th to 41st between 2007 and 2009. Wheeler unfortunately was forced to retire in 2010 following a groin injury and the performance of the team has unfortunately suffered significantly since.
Much bad feeling still surrounds the inclusion of expatriate players in the squad, despite the wealth of international experience that has been brought from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, England, Wales, Scotland, France, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tahiti. Some local critics, averse to diversity and progress, fear rugby in Singapore will head in the same direction as Hong Kong's National Rugby team which is dominated by expatriate players.
In 2013, all teams competing in the Singapore National League must have at least 5 local players in their first team. The president of the Singapore Rugby Union also promises that future national teams will comprise at least two thirds Singapore citizens. It is unclear how this exclusion policy is designed to increase the standard of rugby in Singapore or foster teambuilding, particularly in light of the significant immigration trends in the country over the last decade.
Asian 5 Nations Competition
Singapore have been competitors in the Asian 5 Nations competition since the inaugural 2008 tournament. In 2009 they competed in the premier division of the series. They kept the tournament winners Japan to a 30 point deficit, the smallest of any of Japan's games.
Squad to 2015 Rugby World Cup Asia Qualifiers
- Lin Xinyi (3 April 2009). "S'pore rugby team resolves grievances". The Strait Times. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
- "Singapore rugby: Too many expats spoiling the broth?". singaporesportsfan.wordpress.com. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2010.