Singapore at the Asian Rugby C’ships – an alternative view?

The posting:

I was alerted to this posting by a reader and having written about Singapore’s promotion to the Asian Five Nations (A5), I thought I’d put it up as an alternative view to Singapore’s participation in this year’s ARFU.

This entry was posted on Nov 8, before Singapore won promotion to the A5N. Here’s an excerpt:

Yesterday, Singapore announced the squad that will be traveling up to Taiwan for this year’s Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) tournament.


Looking at the squad, much has to be said of the shocking exclusion of so many brilliant local players and the stripping of captaincy from Singapore’s most capped rugby player, Rong JingXiang. It is really a sad sight to see what is becoming of a team which was so affectionately known as our “Anchor Reds”, and who donned the sheer pride and joy of the Singapore flag. One must truly fear the day that the Singapore team transforms into a faint resemblance of a “Hong Kong” team is drawing nearer than we might have once anticipated.


Its not that I am prejudice against our expatriates who have flown to our shores and embraced our country, but I believe that much more must be done to support the very talents that Singapore has developed – so many have shown so much potential and talent, but have sadly been forgotten by the ever changing selectors. There was a time when Singapore stood strong as a local side, and had a lot more heart and camaraderie than there probably is today. The closest thing that probably resembled that kind of team dynamics was probably last year’s SEA games team, where all 12 players were purely local. I believe in the eyes of many supporters, we were proud of our boys when they won the bronze medal, not only because they did well, but because we knew that each one of them had put in a great deal of effort to be there…and in some ways represented many of us local boys in more ways than one.

You can read the whole posting here:

My thoughts:

On the whole, the posting does make some thought-provoking points. But I would also take some parts of it with a spoonful of salt.

For example, would it really be fair to say that “…There was a time when Singapore stood strong as a local side, and had a lot more heart and camaraderie than there probably is today” ?

Judging from the way the Singapore Reds eventually came back from the brink to snatch that 20-20 draw with Sri Lanka and that 23-22 win over Taiwan, it seems to me that the fighting spirit and never-say-die attittude in the team must be pretty strong.

Teams made of lesser material – or “intestinal fortitude as the late WWF commentator Gorilla Monsoon would say – would have thrown in the towel when down 17-20 or 16-22 with just two minutes to go.

Two other interesting, albeit controversial, points made in the posting:

a. that the Singapore Reds is slowly starting to look like the expatriate-littered Hong Kong side. There were eight expatriates in this year’s 24-strong Singapore ARFU squad, compared to six two years ago.

b. The ‘stripping of the captaincy’ from Rong Jing Xiang, supposedly Singapore’s most capped rugby international. The captain’s armband was instead given to Chris Gilbert, making him the first non-local player to skipper the reds.

Intrigued, and inspired by some memories of the Japanese rugby team that played in the 1998 Asian Championships cum 1999 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in Singapore, I did a bit of research on the net and this is what I found out about the Japan RFU:

i. For a society that is highly homogeneous and insular, and which usually keeps foreigners or ‘gaijins‘ at a distance, the Japanese national rugby team is, surprisingly, quite cosmopolitan in its make-up with a number of expatriates in its squad.

The 22-strong Japanese squad that was named to take on the USA Eagles last week had six expatriates in the team. That’s about 27 percent of the team, similar to the 30 percent in the Singapore squad.

The six “ang-mohs” were: Michael Leitch (flanker), Shaun Webb (five-eight), Ryan Nicholas (centre), Bryce Robins (centre),  Luke Thompson (lock) and Piel Matileo (Wing). It would be seven if you consider Japan’s Tongan-born No 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani a foreigner.

ii. Japan’s current skipper may be local lad Takashi Kukutani but there was a time when a “gaijin” did lead Japan as captain. That was back in 1998 when Japan created history and raised quite a few eyebrows when it handed the captaincy to New Zealand-born centre Andrew McCormick.

Former Japan skipper Andrew McCormick in action in 1999 (Picture taken from

Former Japan skipper Andrew McCormick in action in 1999 (Picture taken from

And McCormick, who skippered Japan at the 1999 RWC, must have been highly popular because I do remember vividly sections of the Japanese crowd which turned up at the National Stadium during the 1998 RWC qualifiers, chanting “ANNNNG-GGGGGUUUUSSSSS, ANNNNG-GGGGUSSSSS” whenever he led the team out. (‘Angus’ was McCormick’s nickname)

For more on McCormick, click here 

My point: just because one is the most capped local player in a national team does not automatically mean that he should also assume the captaincy of the team.

The fact that Chris Gilbert was handed the Singapore captaincy could also mean that he was seen as having certain leadership qualities that were badly needed in the squad. 

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

26 Nov – Battling Singapore takes its place among Asian rugby elite


22 Sept – A toast to our rugby heroes of ’78 – and to some fundamental principles of sport 


24 July: Remembering the National Stadium – Best Memory #5

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2 thoughts on “Singapore at the Asian Rugby C’ships – an alternative view?

  1. […] 01 Dec – Singapore at the Asian Rugby C’ships – an alternative view […]

  2. […] 1 Dec 2008 – Singapore at the Asian Rugby C’ships – an alternative view […]

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