Wednesday 15 October 2014

World Champions Lose Pole Position

Republic of Ireland are expected to make a number of changes ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Group D rivals Germany.

Stephen Quinn, Glenn Whelan, Shane Long and Jon Walters were all missing from their 7-0 thrashing of Gibraltar on Saturday, but the quartet are expected to make an appearance in Gelsenkirchen as Martin O’Neill attempts to combat Die Mannschaft’s wealth of attacking options.

O’Neill, whose Ireland side are currently second in the group, admits he’s wary of a German backlash following the World Cup winners’ shock 2-0 defeat to Poland on Saturday.

"I think Germany have a history of coming roaring back pretty quickly from whatever set-backs they have had," said O'Neill. 

"They had most of the possession (against Poland) and should have been 2-0 up at half-time, I think regardless of retirements and injuries they will still be formidable.

"Germany lost after conceding a goal just after half-time, which they wouldn't normally have done.

"Germany are Germany, let's not beat around the bush, they are a top quality team and it's less than four months after they lifted the World Cup.”

Joachim Low’s side are in an unfamiliar fourth position at the moment, but are still heavy favourites to qualify for France 2016 as Group D winners.

Despite having the odds stacked in their favour, Low is expecting a difficult game at the Veltins Arena against a combative Ireland team.

“We can expect another copy of the Poland game, they are extremely strong in the tackle," said Low in Monday's press conference.

"They have similar type of players to Poland with Keane, who has plenty of experience, up front. They have quick players like (Everton's Aiden) McGeady on the flanks who dribble well and can always cause danger.

"They now have six points and have justified hopes of qualifying for the tournament in France."

Sunderland defender John O'Shea is set to win his 100th cap for Ireland, while playmaker Wes Hoolahan is expected to be dropped in favour of a more defensive approach, despite the Norwich man’s impressive performance against Gibraltar.

Jeff Hendrick and winger James McClean could also be dropped, with Quinn or Whelan expected to be given the nod.

Low will be forced into one change from their loss to Poland, with defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer withdrawing from the squad with flu symptoms.

Kramer’s absence means that Hoffenheim’s Sebastian Rudy or Dortmund’s Matthias Ginter could start alongside central midfielder Toni Kroos, while the German boss confirmed that Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi will start on the right wing.

Memories - Ray Houghton - EURO 1988

The nation first tasted the glory of a major international success in Stuttgart during the Finals of the Euro '88 championship when Ray Houghton's looping header went in against England in the opening match of the group for Ireland.

Having beaten England goalkeeper Peter Shilton after six minutes the Republic of Ireland went on to win the game and trigger scenes of delight and celebration that have now became trademark of Irish support. 

The hero of the Neckarstadion went on to complete a similar feat again in Giants Stadium six years later in the United States scoring in the eleventh minute for Ireland against Italy securing another memorable victory in the opening match of a major tournament, the 1994 World Cup.

Indeed that whole Jack Charlton era was triggered by Gary MacKay's away goal for Scotland against Bulgaria in the Euro 1988 qualifying match, which saw the Republic of Ireland qualify for a major tournament for the first time.

The Republic of Ireland had been relying on the unlikely victory of Scotland over Bulgaria to qualify and the importance of the game was highlighted by the fact that RTE broadcast that game live.

Clear memories of those early days in 1988 are probably factually sketchy but undoubtedly there was expectation not least when the first game of the Finals was against England at the former Neckarstadion in Stuttgart. The expectation for a result was real despite the absence of Liam Brady from the side through injury. But followers of football were to come to learn of a new era in the game when the unexpected started to happen under Jack Charlton and it seemed to start with that late equalising goal from Scotland in Bulgaria that ensured Ireland qualified for Euro 88 given that the rules were changed so that the second place teams in the group qualified automatically.

Jack Charlton took over the squad when morale was low and although there was the basis of a good side it looked beyond the team to qualify for a major finals. Things started badly when Ireland lost at home to Wales in a friendly followed by a 1-1 draw with Uruguay before heading off to Iceland for an end of season competition. Wins over the hosts and Czechoslovakia gave Ireland their first ever win in an international competition. Despite this many of the more established players were upset at Jack Charlton's direct tactics, which put an emphasis on closing down the opposition and 'to put them under pressure'.

So Charlton went into the European Championship qualifiers with little expectation and without David O'Leary who had gone on holidays instead of going to Iceland.

However, the mood of most of the players changed after Ireland's first qualifying game in Brussels when they held the group favourites Belgium to a 2-2 draw. Ireland continued their run of good results with a win and a draw against Scotland before losing to Bulgaria in Sofia.

Despite the setback though Ireland continued to improve and achieved a famous victory when they beat Luxembourg and secured a 2-0 win over the group leaders Bulgaria in their final game. Despite the win over Bulgaria it looked as though Ireland would once again miss out on qualification as it needed a defeat for the Bulgarians at home in their final game for Ireland to qualify for the finals in Germany. It looked beyond Scotland to get a result in Sofia but a late goal by Gary MacKay sent Ireland on their way.

For Ray Houghton the busy midfielder from Oxford United history started a script on June 12th 1988 in Stuttgart, which would see him involved in most of Ireland's key games under Jack Charlton from then on. Having enjoyed a successful career as a midfielder at Fulham, West Ham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Oxford United and Crystal Palace, it was for his part in the all-conquering Liverpool team of the 1980's that he earned the greatest recognition.

Born in Glasgow, Ray Houghton spent his early years in London and played with West Ham United youths, qualifying for Ireland by virtue of his Donegal born father. In 1982 he joined Fulham and it was his time with 'The Cottagers' that proved the success and after three years he moved to First Division Oxford United for £150,000. Ray's progress at both club and international level had been noted by English football's top teams and, shortly after the start of the 1987-88 season, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish handed Oxford United GBP£675,000 to sign the 25-year-old midfielder. Title success with Liverpool quickly followed.

He made his international debut, along with club-mate John Aldridge in Jack Charlton's first game in charge and kept his place in the line-up for each of the next seven games. He played a key role in Ireland's qualifying campaign for the 1988 European Championships, missing just one match en route to the finals. Ray Houghton appeared in all eight qualifying matches for the 1990 World Cup and was also ever-present at the finals in Italy. He was by nature an attack minded player but under Jack Charlton he was appreciated as much for his tenacity and stamina than for his accurate centres or dribbling skills.

Houghton remained a critical player for Ireland throughout the early 1990's. 

He missed just one of the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup and of course at the finals scored against Italy with that famous lob in Ginats Stadium. Ray played in all four of the Republic's matches at the USA '94.

Despite niggling injuries, he won 11 more caps before bringing the curtain down on his international career with a substitution appearance in the World Cup play-off match against Belgium in 1997. Although Ireland lost the match 2-1 Ray Houghton signed off his days in green by scoring Ireland's goal.

After Liverpool Ray Houghton went on to enjoy a successful three-season spell at Aston Villa with whom was he was a League Cup winner in 1994, before winding down his career with spells at Crystal Palace and Reading.

Following his retirement from playing, Houghton was a football agent before becoming assistant manager at Crystal Palace. On leaving Palace, Houghton's media career went from strength to strength, and he now presents shows on Talk Sport and provides football commentary for various TV stations, including RTE Sport in Ireland and SKY Sports in the UK. 

He is also a columnist with 'The Irish Daily Star' newspaper.


Marussia Reject Suzuka Speeding Claims

Marussia have angrily rejected media reports suggesting the team contributed to Jules Bianchi’s life-threatening crash at the Japanese Grand Prix by telling him to ignore yellow caution flags.

The 25-year-old driver remains in hospital having suffered a diffuse axonal injury when he crashed into a recovery vehicle during the race. Bianchi’s condition is described as “critical but stable”, while his father, Philippe, said on Tuesday: “His doctors have told us this is already a miracle, no one has ever survived such a serious accident. But Jules won’t give up.”

Reacting to what it called “isolated media reports” that the team had urged Bianchi to go faster during the caution period in order to keep ahead of Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, Marussia said: “We are shocked and angered by these allegations.

“At a time when its driver is critically ill in hospital, and the team has made clear that its highest priority is consideration for Jules and his family, it is distressed to have to respond to deeply upsetting rumours and inaccuracies in respect of the circumstances of Jules’ accident. However, given that these allegations are entirely false, the team has no alternative but to address these.

“Jules did slow down under the double-waved yellow flags. That is an irrefutable fact, as proven by the telemetry data, which the team has provided to the FIA. In the FIA press conference which took place in Sochi on Friday 10 October, Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Race Director, confirmed that the team had provided such data, that he himself had examined this data and that Jules did slow.

“It is quite clear from the radio transmission and the transcript that at no point during the period leading up to Jules’ accident did the team urge Jules to drive faster, or make any comments suggesting that he should do so.

“The team sincerely hopes that, having clarified these facts, it can now avoid any further distractions to its primary focus at this time, which is providing support for Jules and his family.”

Wonderful Wonderful Gelsenkirchen

A stoppage-time goal from John O'Shea on his 100th cap preserved the Republic of Ireland's unbeaten record in European qualifying by rescuing them a 1-1 draw away to world champions Germany.

It looked as though Martin O'Neill's men were set for their first defeat of the campaign after Toni Kroos' long-range shot had given the home side the lead with 19 minutes to go in Gelsenkirchen.

But O'Shea, who is his country's sixth international centurion, was on hand to flick the ball into the bottom corner of the net with the last kick of the game to salvage a point.

This means that Ireland are second in Group D, level with Poland on seven points (but having scored a goal less) and three points ahead of Germany.

Prior to his late heroics, O'Shea had been part of an Ireland defence that had fought valiantly for 70 minutes to repel a German team who were looking to bounce back from a defeat in Poland that had brought an end to their 19-game unbeaten run in competitive matches.

For much of the match they did just this, keeping their shape and restricting the home side the space they needed around the box to capitalise on their vastly superior possession.

Ireland’s cause was helped by a sluggish first-half display from a German side who are still adjusting to the post-World Cup retirements of Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose and missing Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Andre Schurrle through injury.

The traffic was all one way but largely came to a halt ahead of the 18-yard box as Mario Gotze and Julian Draxler struggled while Thomas Muller was far less influential than he had been during the World Cup in Brazil.

Saying that, they could easily have led at the break but for the crossbar denying Erik Durm's somewhat speculative 40-yard effort, Antonio Rudiger heading wide when he should have hit the target from 10 yards out and David Forde saving well from a Draxler angled shot.

The home side came out with renewed vigour after the break, having sent on Lukas Podolski – one of only six substitutes named by Low.

Forde produced a superb save to palm over a Kroos shot, but he was powerless to prevent a low drive from the same player later in the half, which found the back of the net off the inside of the post.

Now needing to chase the game, Ireland sent on Hoolahan and he was presented with an excellent chance to snatch a point when he was found in the box by a low cross from James McClean but his goalbound effort was blocked by the sliding Durm.

With 90 minutes having elapsed, Ireland launched one last attack and, when Hoolahan's over-hit cross was played back into the box by fellow substitute Jeff Hendrick, acting captain O'Shea was there with a neat finish to send the away fans into ecstasy.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

EURO'88 Team were all winners

An unknown Scottish player called Gary Mackay scored an 87th minute winner against Bulgaria in the EURO'88 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on November 11th 1987, that earned Ireland a place in Germany at the European Championships in 1988 - with an opening match against England.

As expected England were favourites against a Republic of Ireland side making a historic first appearance in any finals.

Early in the game Kevin Moran took a free-kick and hit it long, which Mark Wright moved out to the right to cover, managing only to get in Gary Stevens' way. When the ball fell to Tony Galvin, he hooked a cross that Kenny Sansom miskicked up in the air, allowing John Aldridge head the ball to Ray Houghton - who then looped a header beyond Peter Shilton.

So after six minutes in the old Neckarstadion in Stuttgart, Jack Charlton's side were 1 - 0 ahead.

The second half was one long England attack, producing enough chances to have won the match twice over. Three times Gary Lineker was put clean through, only to have one shot saved by Pat Bonner, clip the bar with the second and put the other just past the far post. In the end Ireland held out and a historic milestone was achieved that started the self belief under Charlton.

However what people forget about the Republic of Ireland team that day was, each of the players was a winner in their own right at club level, more so than previous teams, and were all owners of valuable silverware.

Packie Bonner: Celtic
Scottish League: 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, Scottish Cup: 1980, 1988; Scottish League Cup: 1983

Chris Morris, Celtic
Scottish League: 1988, Scottish Cup: 1988; 
Runs family pasties business

Chris Hughton; Tottenham Hotspur
FA Cup: Winner 1981 & 1982), UEFA Cup 1984; FA Charity Shield: Winner (1981), runner up (1982). 
Manger at Norwich City

Mick McCarthy; Celtic
Scottish Premier League 1988; Scottish Cup 1988
Pundit, ex Wolves manager  

Kevin Moran; Manchester United
Dublin GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship (2): 1976, 1977; Leinster Senior Football Championship (3): 1975, 1976, 1977; Manchester United FA Cup 1982–83, 1984–85; FA Charity Shield 1983
Football Agent, Pundit

Ronnie Whelan; Liverpool
League Championship 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988; FA Cup 1986; League Cup 1982, 1983, 1984; Charity Shield; 1982, 1986, 1988; European Cup 1984 Super Cup 1986 
Pundit for RTE and Evening Herald

Paul McGrath, Manchester United
FA Cup: 1985

Ray Houghton; Liverpool
League Championship 1988; League Cup 1986; 
Pundit for RTE, talkSPORT and Irish Daily Star

John Aldridge; Liverpool
Newport County Welsh Cup 1980; Oxford United, 3rd Division Winners 1984; 2nd Division, Winner 1985; Football League Cup 1986; League Championship 1988; Charity Shield 1988; 

Frank Stapleton; Manchester United
Arsenal FA Cup 1979; Manchester United Charity Shield 1983; FA Cup 
Scout for Giovanni Trapattoni

Tony Galvin; Tottenham Hotspur
FA Cup winner 1981; FA Cup winner 1982; UEFA Cup winner 1984

Sunday 12 October 2014

View from the Top - Lindsay Davenport

"You work your whole life to try to be the best you can, even if it's for only one day or one week."
Lindsay Davenport

Profile - Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a Lightweight  from Bray, Co. Wicklow, who began boxing in 1998. 

Taylor comes from a family with a boxing background - her coach at the St. Fergal's Boxing Club in Bray is her father Peter - who was 1986 Irish senior light heavyweight champion. His daughter has won Three Consecutive AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships

In 2012 Katie Taylor was awarded for the second time the honour of Sportswoman of the Year for winning gold in the European and World Championships and retaining her title.

It was 2001 when Katie first made Irish boxing history in the first officially sanctioned women's bout ever held in Ireland, where she fought 16-year-old Alanna Audley of Belfast at the National Stadium in Dublin in the first of three female contests on a sixteen-bout amateur card. 

Katie won over three 90-second rounds by 23-12. Irish Amateur Boxing Association President Dominic O'Rourke called the event "a momentous day for Irish boxing."

Katie then returned to National Stadium on 1 March 2002 to fight Candy Berry of England as part of a show that featured an Ireland vs. Canada senior men's tournament. Katie won this match.

Katie competed in the 60-kg division of the international Norway Box Cup in Oslo, defeating Ingrid Egner of Norway by 36-20 in the semi-final and Josefina Tengroth of Sweden in the final. Katie's strong performance in this tournament also earned her the Best Boxer of the Tournament award.

In February 2004 Katie topped the bill in an event sponsored by the Fermoy Boys/Girls Amateur Boxing Club. The full house of boxing fans at the Fermoy Rowing Club didn't see the rising Irish star for long, however, as she dispatched unbeaten Welsh opponent Lorna Cooper in just 30 seconds. "It was enough to let fans see just how good she is," insisted tournament organizer Pat Flynn, adding "she is an exceptional boxer and will take a lot of beating in the European championships later in the year."

June 2004 she competed in the Third International "Italia" Women's Tournament in Rome. Katie defeated Emanuela Pantani of Italy by a 22-6 margin in the quarter-final, Eva Wahlström of Finland by 39-25 in the semi-final and 2002 world 60-kg champion Jennifer Ogg of Canada by 31-28 in the final to win both her 60-kg division and the Best Boxer of Tournament award.

At the Third Women's European Boxing Championships in Riccione, Italy, Katie suffered a setback when she lost to reigning 63-kg world champion Yuliya Nemtsova of Russia by a 27-12 score. Taylor, who was Ireland's only representative in the tournament, had boxed well against a strong opponent and was surprised by the margin of victory awarded to the Russian. "It was most definitely a much closer fight than the score would suggest. I actually thought that I did enough to win." she said.

At the 20th Ahmet Comert Cup tournament on April 2005 in Istanbul Katie defeated Cindy Orain of France but lost her next fight to home-standing Gülsüm Tatar of Turkey by a 27-21 decision.

Katie then made more Irish boxing history again at age 18 in May 2005 when she became the first Irish woman to win a Gold Medal at the Senior European Championships. 

Competing in Tønsberg, Norway, she stopped Eva Wahlström of Finland in the third round of their 60-kg lightweight final. Taylor held a 19-17 points lead when the contest was stopped after Wahlström suffered an eye injury. Taylor had opened her campaign with an impressive second round RSCO-2 stoppage over Lucie Bertaud of France, followed by a stirring semi-final clash with defending European champion Gülsüm Tatar of Turkey. At the end of this rematch with the Turkish boxer, the computer scoring was a 12-12 draw but Taylor won by 29-28 in countback (amount of punches thrown).

On March 11, 2006 at the National Stadium in Dublin Katie again faced Dina Burger of Switzerland. Katie made an excellent start building a comfortable lead and impressing ringsiders with her hand speed and footwork. Her Swiss opponent fought back strongly in the second and third rounds but Taylor came away with a 22-11 verdict

On March 18, 2006 in Cork, Katie won a close decision over Canadian National Junior Welterweight Champion Katie Dunn.

Katie began her run at the world title in 2006 with an excellent showing at the Witch Cup Tournament in Hungary in August 2006. She defeated Edina Pezdany of Hungary in her quarter-final bout, Marlene K. Nielsen of Denmark in her semi-final and then won the Gold Medal over Eva Wahlström of Finland.

At the 2006 European championships in September 2006 in Warsaw, Poland, Katie won her second European Gold medal in a row with a second round stoppage of reigning world champion Tatiana Chalaya of Chechnya. This time Taylor made short work of Chalaya, winning on the 15 point mercy rule with the scoring at 18-3. Katie also won the Best Boxer award in this tournament.

The win capped a big week for Katie who came through the tougher half of the draw to reach the final. She had qualified for the final with an 18-15 points win over her arch rival and reigning world silver medalist Gülsüm Tatar of Turkey.

At the 2006 Venus Box Cup in Denmark in October 2006, Katie won her preliminary over Elena Gorshkova of Russia by a 36-20 score, then stopped Marlene K. Nielsen of Denmark in her quarter-final and Romanian Florina Popa on the 15-point rule (17-2) in her semi-final to set up a 60-kg final with Lucie Beataud of France. She then had to pull out of the competition because of an injury to her nose, looking ahead to competing in the Fourth AIBA Women's Senior World Championships in India a little under a month later.

Her return to the AIBA World Championships at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi, India saw Katie win five bouts in a row to take the 60-kg Gold Medal.

On November 18, 2006 she stopped US champion Caroline Barry by a 16-1 score on the 15 point mercy rule in the first round. On November 19 she again beat Eva Wahlström of Finland, this bout being stopped at 19-4 on the 15 point mercy rule in the second round. On November 21 in the quarter-final Katie beat Florina Popa of Romania 20-5, also on the 15 point mercy rule in the second round. On November 22 in the semi-final Katie defeated the defending world champion Tatiana Chalaya of Chechnya for the second straight time, by an impressive 23-6 margin (the mercy rule was not invoked and the bout went the distance).

In October 2007 Katie was crowned 60-kg champion for the third year in a row after a victory over Sandra Brugger of Switzerland. 

Katie Taylor was awarded the Irish Times/VHI Healthcare Sportswoman of the Year Award for 2007 at the Western Hotel in Dublin on January 18, 2008.

In March 2008 in the 60-kg division at the Women's International Tournament held in Russia, Katie defeated Gulsum Tatar of Turkey 16-5 in her preliminary bout and went on to win the division and the "Best Boxer in Tournament" award.

Katie was awarded the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Female Boxer of the Year for 2008 in Moscow on December 12, 2008. Her spectacular success in 2008 also led to her being named as the Irish Times/Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Year for 2008, repeating the honor she received in 2007.

On March 21, 2009 at the O2 in Dublin, Katie won a 27-3 win over thee time Pan American champion Caroline Barry of the United States on the undercard of a pro WBA super bantamweight world title fight between Bernard Dunne of Ireland and Ricardo Cordoba of Panama. Speaking after the fight, Taylor, said she was stunned by the welcome she received from Irish boxing fans. She said: "I couldn't believe the reception I got - it was an amazing experience for me. I knew it was going to be a tough fight and well done to her for never backing off."

On April 19, 2009 in the 60-kg division of the women's Ahmet Comert Cup in Istanbul, Turkey, Katie defeated Ozlem Dinc of Turkey by a 5-1 margin to win yet another gold medal. She was also voted best female boxer and best boxer (male or female) of this prestigious tournament.

Katie Taylor's impressive athletic accomplishments are not limited to boxing - she has is also a key player in Irish Women's soccer! She competed in last season's Football Association of Ireland (FAI) Women's Senior Cup Final where her club were runners-up to Dundalk.

Katie has always dreamed of Olympic gold:

Taylor was born on June 2nd 1986 and is the current Irish, European, and world women's boxing champion in the 60kg division. She has also played Gaelic football and represented the Republic of Ireland in association football. Regarded as the outstanding Irish athlete of her generation, she bore the flag for Ireland at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London, later boxing her way to an Olympic medal in the lightweight.

Taylor studied at St. Kilian's Community School Bray from 1999 until 2005. Her two older brothers, Peter and Lee, and older sister, Sarah, also attended St. Kilian's.

Low Blames Missed Chances in Warsaw

Joachim Low said his side had "more than 20 attempts" to score, but he was left to rue their missed chances after Poland defeated the World Cup champions 2-0 on Saturday.

The victory was Poland's first over their western neighbours in 19 attempts, and it also marked Germany's first defeat in a qualifier since 2007.

Low insisted Germany will still qualifty for Euro 2016 -- they sit in third place with three points from two games, behind Poland and the Republic of Ireland and even on points with Scotland.

"We created numerous chances but didn't manage to score any," Low said after the match.

"We lost but it is not a dramatic defeat. Life will not be any harder after this loss. This defeat will not put us in trouble in the qualifiers - we've been beaten but we still have a good chance of qualifying for the finals.

"We have some new young players in the team and they have to gain experience.

"Tonight everything worked well except we did not convert our chances -- from more than 20 attempts we failed to score.

Arkadiusz Milik scored with Poland's first shot on target in the 51st minute, heading Lukasz Piszczek's floated cross to the empty net after Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer missed it.

"I was too late but of course I wanted to get the ball," Neuer said. "It was my mistake. But if I'd stayed on the line I wouldn't have got the ball either."

Robert Lewandowski set up Sebastian Mila to score inside the far post in the 88th minute.

"We're delighted to have beaten Germany for the first time. You can see how much it means to people," said Piszczek, who plays club football for Borussia Dortmund.

"We had a little bit of luck, that's why we won. We took our chances. We had two or three, and we scored two goals. Germany had a lot of chances and they didn't take them."

Goetze and Andre Schuerrle, twice, sought a response but found Wojciech Szczesny equal to their efforts. Eric Durm failed to trouble the Poland goalkeeper after Mueller set him up, and was at fault for the second goal when Lewandowski got behind him and set up Mila's clincher.

"He was perhaps badly positioned," acknowledged Low, who said his side would seek to make amends against Ireland. "After a loss you always need to show a good reaction."

Friday 10 October 2014

Singapore Look to Lions Tour

Singapore is in discussions over staging a British & Irish Lions tour match, international Tests and a leg of the rugby sevens series at its new $1bn Sports Hub as part of efforts to become a home away from home for the sport’s biggest names.

International Rugby Board officials gathered in the wealthy southeast Asian city-state this week for their annual meeting, with IRB President Bernard Lapasset leading the praise of Singapore’s new 55,000 National Stadium.

The facility, which can host cricket, rugby, soccer and athletics events, is the centrepiece of a project which Singapore hopes can transform it into a sporting capital.

The Brazilian football team will play Japan in a glamour friendly at the stadium on Tuesday, while the top eight women’s tennis players will compete in Singapore at the WTA Finals for the first time later this month. Now rugby also wants a piece of the pie.

“Our role now is to open the door for Asia, with more expansion for rugby,” Lapasset said. “Singapore is a fantastic city and they already have a lot of big events and rugby should be a part of that.

“Whether it’s the Sevens World Series, Olympic qualifiers or World Cup warm-up games, there are many opportunities in the coming years for Singapore to be a major player in the rugby world.”

Singapore and Japan will find out next month who has been selected to become the 18th team to join Super Rugby, with the IRB “very excited” that two Asian bids are being considered by the competition’s governing body, SANZAR.

Japan appears to be ahead in the race after making a concession to host some matches in Singapore should they win the bid.

But that willingness to share does not extend to the 2019 World Cup, the IRB CEO, Brett Gosper, said, dampening speculation that Singapore or Hong Kong could host games when Japan stages rugby’s biggest tournament.

“It would have been nice on a number of levels but it’s been brought back into being an all-Japan operation … but I would say it is a terrific destination for warm-up matches ahead of 2019,” Gosper said.

Singapore will showcase itself as a destination next month when it hosts a fixture between the Asia Pacific Dragons and the New Zealand Maori.

The Dragons are an invitational side, made up mainly of Pacific Islander players, which Singapore is proposing for the 18th Super Rugby berth.

Singapore also hosted an international rugby 10s tournament in June, the first event at the National Stadium but it wants to play a bigger role in world rugby.

It is in the hunt to host the 2018 World Cup rugby sevens tournament, while discussions were held this week on the possibility of hosting one of three new stops proposed on the sevens series, as well as a Lions fixture.

The Lions played the opening match of their 2013 tour of Australia in Hong Kong, the Asian home of main sponsors HSBC and also the headquarters of the Asian Rugby Football Union. The Lions’ next tour is not until 2017 in New Zealand.