KANGAR: Just when Malaysia thought they had earned the right to join the Asian rugby elite, they had the rug pulled from under them.
Malaysia will not be promoted to Division One despite beating hosts Qatar 31-22 last week to emerge as champions of Division Two in the Asian Five Nations rugby championship.
This is because the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) plan to have just four teams per division.
Malaysia and Qatar will remain in Division Two next year, together with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Taiwan, who were relegated from Division One.
“We only found out in Qatar that there would be no promotion this year because ARFU wanted to have just four teams in each division,” said team manager Raimi Yusof.
“After years of chasing for the promotion to Division One, we finally made it. Then, this had to happen. But I guess we just have to take in our stride.
“But to take the title with 14 uncapped players ... I really take my hat off to the team for their great performance.”
Malaysia’s Mohd Azmir Zainul Abidin and Atunaisa Lacadamu Takubu finished the tournament with the most tries – three each – while Mohd Syarif Saiful Aazwan Sudin had the most conversions – six.
“We can hold our heads up high as we also didn’t have the services of Faat (Hur Rozi Ismail) and Atunaisa in the final against Qatar ... the other lads really stepped up and we managed to hold our own against them,” said Raimi.
“But if I have to single out one player who impressed throughout the tournament, then it has to be Wan Izzuddin Ismail.”