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International rugby comes to Phuket

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International rugby comes to Phuket | Thaiger

PHUKET: Rugby fans are in for a feast in the coming week as the first International 80-80 Rugby Tournament is staged on the island.

Matches in the four-team tournament will be played this weekend and in the evenings next week, culminating with the play-offs and final on Sunday, August 14.

80-80 rugby is a new format whereby players must weigh no more than 80 kilograms at the start of the season and no more than 85kg during the season.

The weight restriction gives nations whose people are more slightly built than those in the West a better chance of winning, and there are high hopes that the Thai side will do well against the opposition from New Zealand and Australia – two of the world’s top rugby-playing countries – and Japan, the top rugby-playing nation in Asia.

Apart from the weight restriction, 80-80 rugby is full 15-a-side contact rugby played under the existing International Rugby Board (IRB) laws for official under-19 matches.

“These Unions represent the ‘powerhouses’ of Southern hemisphere rugby and of course, Japan is the leading rugby nation in Asia, being the only one to have made it into a World Cup,” said Dr Marut Muangkeo, President of the Thai Rugby Union (TRU).

The schedule of matches, which will all be played at Surakul Stadium, is as follows:

Saturday, August 6, 2:30 pm: Japan v Auckland; 4:30 pm: Thailand v New South Wales.

Tuesday, August 9, 5 pm: Auckland v New South Wales; 7 pm: Thailand v Japan;

Thursday, August 11, 5 pm: Japan v New South Wales; 7 pm: Auckland v Thailand;

Sunday, August 14, 2:30 pm: playoff for 3rd and 4th places; 4:30 pm Final.

Organizer Don McBain said, “The matches have been arranged to provide the greatest opportunity for the people in Phuket to see some fantastic rugby.

“For this reason matches will take place at Surakul Stadium and are scheduled in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday and in the evening on week days.

“The tournament favourites,” he noted, “must be Auckland. They have an established 80-80 competition and have been in intensive training for this tournament for three months.

“However, it is difficult to write off the other teams. New South Wales have selected their team from all over the state. With such a wide pool they are guaranteed to be strong.

“Thailand is fielding a side that is close to its full national team, apart from a few of the bigger players.

“Japan is the “dark horse”, but the fact that it is being managed by the Secretary of the Japan Rugby Football Union tells you they will not be a push over.”

The competition was originallly scheduled to take place in Bangkok, but the Ministry of Sports and Tourism decided to change the venue to Phuket as part of its post-tsunami recovery policy.

Dr Marut said, “When told of the venue change, representatives of Auckland Rugby Union and New South Wales Rugby Union were very enthusiastic. They will be spending some time in Bangkok as they pass through, but were more than happy [at the prospect of] playing their rugby in Phuket.”

Dr Marut explained, “When told of the venue change, representatives of Auckland Rugby Union and New South Wales Rugby Union were very enthusiastic. They will be spending some time in Bangkok as they pass through, but were more than happy to be playing their rugby in Phuket.”

The IRB is expected to send both technical development managers and media representatives to study and record the tournament; footage of the event will be broadcast worldwide on the IRB’s weekly Total Rugby program.

 

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