After an eight year gap, rugby returns to the South East Asia Games this weekend with five teams competing for the gold medal in Singapore
Rugby has not traditionally been a major sport in many of the 11 nations that are members of the games federation, and the return of the sport to the Games is a sign of how much rugby is growing in the region.
Five nations have entered the women’s competition which will be one of the Games earliest events. All five also took part in the last year’s Asian Games where Thailand were the highest ranked women’s team, finishing fifth, just ahead of Singapore.
Home advantage means that Singapore are targeting gold in both the women’s and men’s competitions. However, Thailand will be tough to beat and other teams relatively new to rugby are still travelling with expectations of success. "We are confident that the team will win a medal," said Philippine Rugby Football Union head Aaron Briddon on Wednesday despite the fact that this will be the first time their women's squad, coached by Australian Shirley Russell, has been to the Games.
"These girls have been training for 10 weeks, and I have been an involvement for eight weeks," said Russell, a former national team member and coach of the Australian women's national team that won the inaugural World Cup Rugby Sevens in Dubai.
"The girls have trained very hard and (they are) very determined. They have a passion for the game," she said. "We expect our team to be competitive. We should medal."
Play begins on Saturday morning (local time) with the women’s and men’s competitions both being played in the Choa Chu Kang Stadium. The schedule for women’s tournament is:
11:15 Laos v Malaysia
11:40 Thailand v Singapore
13:45 Laos v Philippines
14:10 Malaysia v Singapore
16:15 Laos v Singapore
16:40 Thailand v Philippines
11:15 Thailand v Malaysia
11:40 Singapore v Philippines
13:45 Laos v Thailand
14:10 Philippines v Malaysia
15:25 Bronze Medal Match
16:15 Gold Medal Match