Ruggers seek quick return to Asia's second tier

National rugby coach Frazer McArdell observing his charges on the scrum. They kick off their Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 campaign against India on Nov 15 in Taipei.
National rugby coach Frazer McArdell observing his charges on the scrum. They kick off their Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 campaign against India on Nov 15 in Taipei.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Almost a year after being appointed head coach of the Singapore men's rugby team, Frazer McArdell will face his first major test at the Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 event on Nov 15.

And the Briton is feeling the pressure in three waves as he aims to guide the Republic's 15-a-side team back to Division 1 of the 15-nation tournament.

"The pressure comes from myself, from the fact that I know the boys deserve to be playing in a higher league, and from me trying to take the pressure off the players so they don't feel it when they play," he said.

Singapore, relegated last year after ending last among four teams, are now in the third tier and need to win the Division 2 competition, held in Taiwan, to get promoted. They take on India in their first game.

Should they win, they will then face either Thailand or hosts Chinese Taipei, with the winner securing promotion to Division 1.

McArdell, 30, is confident his men have what it takes to achieve their target of promotion.

Since April, they have been playing friendly matches every month against local and international sides, including a touring team from Durham University.

Next up is a trip to Sri Lanka for another friendly against local club Kandy Sports Club on Saturday.

With little known about the Indians' playing style, the Singaporeans have not been doing much video analysis of their opponents before the friendlies. This is to get them used to "playing against the unknown", said McArdell.

"So they have to turn up and deal with the situation that's put in front of them," he explained. "We also try to make sure every training session is game-based, where we put them under artificial pressure to get them to think outside the box."

Captain Gaspar Tan believes the team are better prepared this year compared to last year as they have more match experience under their belt ahead of this edition.

"Our build-up has been pretty good. We've improved our chemistry and our set-piece skills are getting better," added the 29-year-old.

"We're more ready this year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline 'Ruggers seek quick return to Asia's second tier'. Print Edition | Subscribe