Rugby: Sevens Series extension puts Singapore in 'fantastic situation' to aid in growth of sport in Asia

World Rugby competitions operations manager Douglas Langley said Singapore is in a "fantastic situation" to aid in the growth of the sport in Asia. PHOTO: HSBC SINGAPORE RUGBY SEVENS

SINGAPORE - With Japan hosting this year's Rugby World Cup and its capital staging next year's Olympic Games where rugby sevens will feature for the second straight edition, Singapore is in a "fantastic situation" to aid in the growth of the sport in Asia.

This is thanks to the Republic being awarded rights to a World Rugby Sevens Series leg until 2023, said World Rugby competitions operations manager Douglas Langley on Tuesday (April 9), ahead of this weekend's HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens at the National Stadium.

"As a result of the 2016 Rio Olympics, our fan base (through the number of interactions on various media and social media platforms) was enhanced by 16.8 million people (and) that meant we had a whole new demographic on a very large scale, to tap," he said.

"We have even bigger potential here (in Asia), because we've got some very good development in Asia through Asia Rugby, as well as through the different (national) unions themselves."

Part of Singapore's success in securing the extension - the current four-year deal ends this year - until 2023 was thanks to a desire for continual improvement.

Organisers last year presented players that celebrated their birthdays on the tournament weekend with cakes but such sugary treats were found to be unsuitable during competition. A solution was found - watermelon cakes will be served this week instead.

Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executve Lim Teck Yin said: "So we learn from year to year. It's (about) how well you are able take cognisance of feedback, from menu to training venue to pitch and hospitality... to be as complete as possible in paying attention to the details."

While Singapore has been ranked second out of the 10 legs by World Rugby, there is still room to develop as hosts, he added.

"For all events in Singapore, especially world-class, marquee ones, we've always wanted a multi-year cycle so we can continue to improve on the event and make it more and more attractive to fans.

"It's an opportunity for us to build on previous years, to learn lessons and begin to shape it, Singapore style."

National sports agency SportSG and the Singapore Sports Hub took over the running of the event from the Singapore Rugby Union, which holds the rights to the tournament, and its commercial arm Rugby Singapore.

The Singapore Sevens is the eighth stop on the 10-leg World Rugby Sevens series, before London (May 25-26) and Paris (June 1-2).

The United States currently lead the standings with 130 points, followed by Fiji (123), New Zealand (118), and last season's champions South Africa (99).

This is the first time the quadrennial Rugby World Cup is being staged in this continent and the benefits were enormous, noted Langley.

"There will be a lot of Impact Beyond-type programmes from the World Cup as well as the Olympics, that will be targeted not just at Japan but also in Asia and globally."

Launched in 2013, World Rugby's Impact Beyond programme aims promote the game globally, and its current focus is on leveraging on this year's Rugby World Cup - hosted for the first time in Asia - to grow the game in the continent.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.