Asian 5 Nation championship is a way forward for rugby in Asia to thrive. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Kazakhstan and Arabian Gulf will get their opportunity to play in the inaugural Championship which starts in April.
Unlike soccer, there is a mass gap between the top nations and the developing nation in rugby. For example, when Japan played All Blacks some years back, they were trashed by a century, but Japan too managed to thrash teams like Singapore or Malaysia which we consider to be the top teams in South East Asia with that score.
How can we narrow that gap between the nations?
The answer is simple, more playing time.
The kids in the Rugby Playing Nation took up the game when they were toddlers still in their diapers. The kids in Asian rugby nations took up the game when they were 12-13 whilst in Brunei, most of them took up the game at the age of 16. So when the boys in Brunei trying to figure out whats the difference between ruck and maul, it is already a second nature for their peers in New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, England, France … etc.
Thanks to guys like Johannas ‘Hans’ Hickey, Ben Peacocke, Tladi Small, Simon Harris (and more) … now we can see boys in Brunei (my boys included) taking up the game at 6 or 7 years old.
I took up the game when I was 13 and just like any Asian parents, my mum was against it. My dad was for it because he too played the game when he was in school (but then what can he say hehehehe!). I was lucky that I can hide all the scars and bruises from my mom, because I only see them once in 3 months (I went to a boarding school). The school that I went to has a rugby tradition. We have all the collections of State and National Champion trophies in our Trophy room. So, by default, rugby is the No.1 sports in the school.
We want to create that tradition here in Brunei. In Malaysia they have STAR Ipoh, MCKK, King Edward School of Taiping, Royal Military College and Sekolah Menengah Sains Selangor. In Singapore they have Anglo Chinese School and Raffles Institution whilst in Thailand they have Vajiravudh College and King’s College. I am happy to see boys from SOAS college, Sharif Ali and Awang Semaun are creating that culture.
So, where do we go from here.
BRFU is working hard to work on the playing path for these school going players. The more they play the more rugby comes as a second nature to them. As they say it in Malay ‘melentung buluh biar dari rebongnya‘. Our aim now is not to be the World Champion. Our aim now is to be at par with the regional rugby playing nation. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have been playing the game for more that 80 years. BRFU was only formed 4 years ago. There is no way in the world that we can beat these nations today, but with proper planning, I believe Brunei can beat them tomorrow.
Brunei has been clustered with the other rugby developing nation in the region. To beat Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Guam and Philippines is within our grasp. If we can beat these 5 nations constantly within the next 5-6 years (hopefully with only local talents), we have achieved our first mission and we move forward from there on.
Brunei will play Philippines and Guam in June / July for the regional IRB Championship