Neighbouring rivals Cambodia and Laos are set to make rugby history this Saturday when they line up at the Old Stadium for the inaugural Mekong Cup, in association with the HSBC Asian Five Nations competition.
The international fixture has come to symbolise the growing bond between the two nations, as the Cambodian national team, nicknamed the Koupreys, first play hosts and then turn guests in the return fixture in Vientiane on July 30.
Traditionally, a trophy has been awarded to the side winning their solitary encounter of the annual Asian Five Nations Division V stage. But from this year onwards, it has a separate identity and a tag of its own, marking a new phase of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
The Koupreys, led by irrepressible captain Pich Ratana, have been going through rigorous training sessions under head coach Richard Flanagan of Ireland.
Other members of the coaching staff include Frenchman Sylvere Barrillon and compatriot Pascal Mancuzo, a rugby development coach from French club Montepellier.
“The Cambodian team has been training twice a week for the last three months and it has gone quite well,” coach Flanagan told the Post yesterday.
“We concentrate more on rugby skills and development and fitness has never been a problem with our players. We have seen some videos of the Laos team and we are well prepared and confident.”
The coach also noted that the new format has made the tie “more competitive.”
Excitement is running high in both camps as the countdown begins for what promises to be an absorbing contest set for a 3:30pm kickoff. Entry to the stadium is free and the Cambodian Rugby Federation has launched a passionate appeal for all rugby enthusiasts to make it to the game in big numbers in support of the home side.
Cambodian squad list
(with domestic clubs)
Chro Kim Seng (Sisowath Knights)
Koeut Sovan Raksmey (S Knights)
Mom Samrach (S Knights)
Tun Sopha (PSE Garudas)
Nong Sovanrado (S Knights)
Ut Vuthy (PSE Garudas)
Vong Vannak (PSE Garudas)
Dan Wetherall (S Knights)
Phorn Bophan (PSE Garudas)
Pich Ratana (PSE Garudas)
Mout Sarom (Stade Khmer)
Luke Wilkie (Sisowath Knights)
Khoeun Sangsa (Stade Khmer)
Dul Khemrin (Stade Khmer)
Nhab Rotha (PSE Garudas)
Uk Dara (PSE Garudas)
Dul Khemararaingsey (S Knights)
Pen Sophea (Stade Khmer)
Loem Bonpuv (PSE Garudas)
Em Ratana (Stade Khmer)
Lach Sopeara (PSE Garudas)
Man Salida (Stade Khmer)
Chan Samedi (PSE Garudas)
Noun Leng (PSE Garudas)