Malaysia eye “historical moment” in Rugby World Cup qualifiers, The Asia Rugby Championship kicks off next weekend with three teams vying to continue their dream of Rugby World Cup qualification.
Hong Kong, Korea and Malaysia will battle it out for a chance to face the Cook Islands in a home and away play-off, with that winner progressing to the global repechage where one side will claim the final spot at RWC 2019.
Jone Mawara Nasalo gave Malaysia an early lead before Sakiusa Terence Gavidi and Wong Wye Wye secured the win against Sri Lanka, a victory that also moved Malaysia into the world’s top 50, rising eight places to 47th.
Malaysia have been preparing for the upcoming tournament since October last year and head coach Lee Nyuk Fah is leaving no stone unturned.
“Our programme has consisted of S&C, analysis, data, psychology and nutrition,” said Fah.
“We also spent 16 days on an overseas tour in New Zealand including coaching clinics from local experts and the likes of North Harbour’s Tom Coventry and former All Blacks Rodney So’oialo and Filo Tiatia.”
Malaysia will play Korea and Hong Kong home and away, and begin with their two home legs at the 87,5000 capacity Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur built for the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
With his side ranked 16 and 21 places below their opponents respectively coach Fah acknowledges what it would mean to secure qualification for rugby’s biggest stage.
“We need to stay motivated, hard working and physically and mentally prepare well,” added Fah.
“Our players need to have pride to represent our country for this World Cup qualifier. It would be the proudest and most historical moment for us. It would be a dream come true for sure.”
With Japan already qualified for the first-ever Rugby World Cup in Asia, to have two Asian representatives would further enhance rugby’s position within the region.
But hosting the tournament alone will see a huge benefit, paired with recent successes including China’s qualification to the women’s series and an increasing awareness through Malaysia and Sri Lanka’s participation at the Commonwealth Games.
“Rugby is growing fast now with proper systematic structured professional leagues lead by Japan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, China in sevens and many others,” said Fah.
“To host the Rugby World Cup in Asia is an honour and a proud moment for Asia. The impact is a growing number of players and fans across the Asian countries and subsequently an increase and spread the influence and awareness of beautiful rugby in Asia.”