Four more years for S'pore

Touted as 'the heart of Sevens success story', Republic to host a leg of HSBC series till 2023

Fiji's Amenoni Nasilasila skipping past Australia's Tom Connor in the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens final at the National Stadium last April. Olympic champions Fiji scored a last-gasp try to emerge 28-22 winners.
Fiji's Amenoni Nasilasila skipping past Australia's Tom Connor in the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens final at the National Stadium last April. Olympic champions Fiji scored a last-gasp try to emerge 28-22 winners.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

While the HSBC World Rugby Sevens is spread across glittering cities like London, Paris and Hong Kong, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has reserved special praise for Singapore as the centre of the series' success.

He made the comments as the Republic was yesterday given the rights to host one leg of the men's series for another four years till 2023.

This year's HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens will be held at the National Stadium on April 13-14.

Said Beaumont: "Singapore is at the heart of the Sevens success story and we look forward to welcoming teams and fans to Singapore over the next four years for an excellent event that will continue to grow new rugby audiences."

The Briton added that the hosts were selected owing to "a winning blend of globally attractive destinations, excellent facilities and superb organisers".

Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton, Sydney, Vancouver, Hong Kong, London and Paris also secured rights for the next four-year cycle, while the host of the 10th stop in the United States will be confirmed later.

News of the extension is an additional boost to the sport here.

Last month, Singapore was ranked second out of the 10 legs and Asia's best last season, according to World Rugby's tournament evaluation.

With a score of 89.8, it leapt from ninth place in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, and finished just 0.2 behind Vancouver. Cape Town was third, Hamilton was fourth and Hong Kong fifth.

It scored high marks for accommodation, general support services, training facilities and travel.

The Singapore leg will be jointly organised by national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Singapore Sports Hub this year, taking over from the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU), which holds the rights to the tournament, and its commercial arm Rugby Singapore.

Lim Teck Yin, chief executive officer of SportSG, said: "This mandate gives us the impetus to continue striving to make each (edition) better than the last."

He also promised that it would "continue to work closely with our partners to enhance the experience of the fans and the players".

Oon Jin Teik, CEO of the Sports Hub, added: "The upcoming edition will serve up an exciting mix of world-class rugby with top-end family entertainment and vibrant lifestyle activities."

In January, a SportSG spokesman said that the agency and the Sports Hub would jointly host the Singapore leg. It declined to elaborate on the reasons for the switch.

SRU president Terence Khoo said: "The most important thing is that the event continues to be hosted in Singapore.

"I have no problems with that and am happy to let the experts organise it. At the end of the day, Singapore rugby will still get value out of it."

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu welcomed the news and said in a Facebook post yesterday: "This is testament to Singapore's attractiveness as an international sporting destination. Looking forward to the 2019 edition of the Rugby Sevens from April 13-14 at the National Stadium!"

All Blacks fan and tax consultant Rachel Wong, 31, said: "It is quite different watching at the National Stadium. The fans are up close, we get to feel the intensity of the game and we can hear the shouting from the players. It is much better than watching on television."

World Rugby also announced yesterday that for the first time, the women's series would increase to eight rounds, with six combined men and women's events (Dubai, Cape Town, New Zealand, Sydney, Hong Kong and Paris) from next term as part of the next cycle.

The USA Women's Sevens will again be hosted in Glendale, Colorado, with Langford, British Columbia, also remaining as a standalone event.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Four more years for S'pore'. Subscribe