Rugby union in Singapore

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Rugby union in Singapore
National stadium kallang sg z.JPG
The National Stadium, which closed in 2007, was used to host many of Singapore's international home matches
Country Singapore
Governing body Singapore Rugby Union
National team Singapore
First played Late 19th century
Registered players 9,400[1]
Clubs 13
National competitions

Rugby union is a significant sport that is growing in popularity in Singapore. Singapore is currently ranked 56th in the world and 4th in Asia. As of February 2015, there over 12,000 registered players, with more than 2,000 women playing the sport. There are also 15 formally organised clubs with 4 registered Women's sides.[1]

Club Rugby in Singapore is played in three divisions – the Premiership, the Championship, and the Conference. School Rugby is also hotly contested over three age groups – the C division (under 14), the B division (under 17) and the A division (under 19). There are also a few schools that have a primary-school-level rugby programme where they contest in the under-12 competition.

Governing Body[edit]

The governing body of rugby union in Singapore is the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU), which was founded in 1966. It joined the International Rugby Football Board (now World Rugby) in 1988.[1][2]


Early history[edit]

Rugby union was introduced to the British colony of Singapore in the late 19th century. It has had a steady presence since the beginning of the 20th century, when the Malaya Cup between Singapore Civilians team and states of Malaya was then established, which is one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world.[3]

Swedish rugby union player Andrew Daish scoring a try during a rugby sevens competition in Singapore in January 2011

However, unlike the other colonial city state of Asia, Hong Kong, rugby has not been quite so successful here. The tragic events of the Second World War and the Japanese occupation of Singapore also disrupted its growth. Between 1945 and 1991, a regiment of New Zealanders was based in Singapore, and during those years they dominated the game to the extent that when they left, the Singaporean rugby scene almost fell apart.[2]

1970s & 1980s[edit]

1971 saw the launch of an all national U-23 team made up of locals from the police force, armed forces, schools and local clubs when it played a curtain raiser game against a Malaysia U-23, which they won, to the main touring England vs Singapore Select game.

The true local Singapore rugby story began in 1972 when the national team under the presidency of ASP Niaz Mohd Shah took an all national local lads team to partake in the 3rd ARFT in HKG. The team performed credibly with a 4th placing result. In 1975, Singapore Asian nationals took part in the Bangkok held SEAP Games and emerged 3rd winning a bronze medal. In 1977, under the new presidency of renowned lawyer, Mr Howard Cashin the Singapore Asian all nationals took part in the SEA Games held at Kuala Lumpur and emerged runner up with a silver medal. The national team's best result was in 1978 when they beat the 1st RNZIR battalion kiwis Singapore based team in the semi finals of the MRU Cup competition played in Kuala Lumpur, and then went on to win the grand finals. Later in the same year, also in Kuala Lumpur at the 6th ARFT, the Singapore all asian nationals team emerged third in Asia against all odds, after Japan and Korea. They defeated Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand in the run up to the third placing.

For the stellar performance in 1978, the SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council) awarded the national sports accolades to Singapore rugby all nationals team the 1978 Team of the year, the coach of the year to rugby coach, Natahar Bava and Sportsman of the year to the pack leader, Song Koon Poh. This was a "Grand Slam" achievement by the game of RUGBY in the sports history of Singapore and rugby in particular. The MRU Cup victory feat was repeated again in 1982 & again the team was coached by Natahar Bava Likewise, the 7s game also flourished in Singapore from 1977 to 1982 - the Singapore all nationals team playing in the ever popular Hong Kong 7s, emerged Plate finalists in 1978 and 1979 it qualified for the cup quarter finals first time ever but losing out to Western Samoa eventually. In 1980 it again qualified for the plate finals. In spite of all the adversities encountered, the achievements by local rugby and the SRU then were momentous indeed. This goes to show local rugby did flourish then in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Like some other places, Singaporean rugby's colonial inheritance has proven a hindrance. It is still dominated by white expatriates from Commonwealth countries, such as the Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom – there are at least twenty such expat clubs. There has been some take up amongst other groups, and there has been a long-standing effort to involve the local community, by Aussies Peter Randall and Andrew Blades,[2] but not much headway was achieved.

1990s to present[edit]

A schoolboy rugby match at the Padang in Singapore in October 2013

In 1995, after a heavy defeat at the hands of Hong Kong, the SRU decided to appoint a full-time officer and four part-time development officers, and instituted a schools programme. Between 1995 and 1998, over a hundred schools took up the sport.[4]

Singapore has also taken part in an Asian round-robin tournament with Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.[3]

Singapore is an active participant in the Commonwealth Sevens, and Hong Kong Sevens. The now defunct Singapore Sevens was set up as a stand by for the Hong Kong Sevens, should it have declined under Chinese rule.[2]

2019 Rugby World Cup[edit]

At the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be hosted by Japan, in addition to the nine venues located in that country, one venue each from Singapore and Hong Kong have also been proposed to host five matches respectively.[5] The Singapore Sports Hub, the successor to the National Stadium, with a capacity of 50,000, will be used for this purpose.

Singapore rugby referees[edit]

Singapore rugby referees have performed notably on the international stage, despite the small rugby playing population. They have been appointed to referee at international events like the Hong Kong Sevens, Asian Games, and the Commonwealth Games, as well as at top Asian test matches such as Hong Kong vs Japan. [6]

Notable Singaporean players[edit]

Players running down the touchline during the Singapore Cricket Club Rugby Sevens tournament
  • Billy King, rugby player and cricketer.
  • Leow Kim Liat (Singapore 1970 - 1974, Captain - 1972 - 1974) First Asian to Captain a Singapore representative side, Captain of Singapore's first all local national team in 1972)
  • Natahar Bava (Singapore 1971 - 1973); Singapore's Athletics Asian games 400m medalist; Most successful national rugby coach ever - coach of MRU Cup winning sides twice in 1978 & 1982 as well as Asian 3rd placing for Singapore in 1978. Honoured as Singapore's Coach of the year 1978 by Singapore National Olympic Council.
  • Song Koon Poh (Singapore U-23 1971; Singapore 1972-1991) Captain - 1975-77 & 1979-1982; Singapore's Sportsman of the year 1978; toured South Africa with Tokkie's Dragons in 1982 (only Asian to have ever toured S Africa in an invitational "rest of the world" team). Played for Singapore Select v France in 1984 (1 of only 2 local nationals picked in that Select Squad)
  • Jarmal Singh (Singapore 1974 - 1980, captain 1978) Most successful Singapore captain ever in the coveted year of 1978
  • Andrew Chin (Singapore 1977-1988, Captain 1983-1984) Only Singapore player to have played in the revered HK 7s 9 times!!
  • Arumugam Vijiaratnam, also represented Singapore in hockey, cricket and football.
  • Rong Jing Xiang, (Singapore 1996 - 2009) Captain 2004 - 2009, Youngest player ever capped by Singapore at 16.
  • Ben Wheeler, former national team captain
  • Jon Lee, (Singapore 2009 to present) Captain 2010 - 2012
  • Sunami Amran (Singapore 2008 to present), First Singaporean above 100kg to play at scrumhalf
  • Jay-Hykel Jln (Singapore 2013 to present), First Singaporean to be selected to play for Asian Pacific Dragons in 2014 Hong Kong 10s coached by All Blacks legend Tana Umaga.
  • Reiner Leong (Singapore 2013 to present), First Singaporean to play at the new Singapore National Stadium in 2014 for the Asian Pacific Dragons at the first ever World Club 10s

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Singapore, International Rugby Board, archived from the original on 8 October 2014, retrieved 8 October 2014 .
  2. ^ a b c d Bath, p. 74.
  3. ^ a b Richard Bath (1997), The Complete Book of Rugby, [London]: Sevenoaks, p. 71, ISBN 978-1-86200-013-1 .
  4. ^ A Brief History of Singapore Rugby, Singapore Rugby Union, 2013, archived from the original on 19 October 2014 .
  5. ^ RWC 2015/2019: 15 Main Topics & Venues of the Bid of Japan, Japan Rugby Football Union, 2006, archived from the original on 22 February 2012 .
  6. ^

External links[edit]