PETALING JAYA, May 16 — The homeless national rugby team hope winning their first ever Asian Championship Division 1 title on Saturday will help them end their nomadic life.
Malaysian Rugby Union (MRU) general manager Mohd Mazuri Sallehudin said with the country hosting the SEA Games next year, it was time for the national body to have a home.
A year ago, after winning the Division 2 title, the National Sports Council and Sports Ministry said they would help MRU find a venue.
The Sports Ministry had also given MRU a RM1 million grant to develop the game.
“Last year we were given a promise to have a home and we were given three choices — Merdeka Stadium, Kelana Jaya Stadium or a field in Putrajaya Equestrian Park. However, nothing has come out of it,” said Mazuri.
“It’s important to have a proper home to develop players and train as we are heading towards a more professional level.”
Mazuri said the over 3,000 fans who flocked to witness the 40-20 thrashing of Singapore at Royal Selangor Club on Saturday was testament to the sport’s popularity, although it paled in comparison to the 10,000 who turned up last year when the tournament was held at Kelana Jaya Stadium.
“We need our own venue for our fans and most importantly for rugby development. Plus it can lower the cost and create revenue by attracting sponsors who usually prone to help more popular sports,” said Mazuri.
On Saturday, Malaysia scored five tries against their neighbours to clinch the title with 11 points, two more than Sri Lanka.
The Philippines had seven points while Singapore were last on four points and were relegated to Division Two.
Mohd Azmir Zainul Abidin was the main man for Malaysia against Singapore with two tries, while Fijians Etonia Vaqa Saukuru, Jone Mawara Nasalo and Atunasia Lacadamu Takubu chipped in with a try each.
Mohd Syarif Saiful Aazwan Sudin converted the tries.
On the decision not to challenge for promotion to the top tier of Asian rugby, called the Top Three, which consists of Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, Mazuri said it was not the right time.
“If we win the title against next year then, yes, we will challenge them as it will also offer us a place in the 2019 World Cup.”
The Division 1 champions must playoff with the last-placed team in the Top Three to earn promotion.
By clinching the Division 1 title, Malaysia will to rise 13 places to No 47 when the world ranking is released today.