Intense interest will be joined by a touch of anxiety at the Army Field in Russey Keo district when the game kicks off at 4pm. National coach Jerome Alfonsi is placing great importance on this tune-up match as a trial of strength for the 35 probables before the tougher Brunei test.

“We have a couple of more friendlies planned, but Saturday’s game is a perfect preview when it comes to finalising a list of 23 players and the national team probables know that every one will have to fight for his place,” Alfonsi told the Post yesterday.

Every member of the team is certain to get playing time on the pitch against the Geckos, but what the coach has in mind is to test a few players in new positions and use what he sees to draw up sound formations to help recast the team, especially the front line.

Excitement is also rife that many new faces may be unveiled on Saturday.

“Yes, we have many youngsters who have already shown their rugby skills and motivation to play for the Koupreys. Our team will be a mix of experience and youth,” said Alfonsi, who is also a physical education teacher at the Rene Descartes French school in Phnom Penh.

Few teams in the region play as hard with their forwards as the Geckos, and that is one reason why the Koupreys prefer to warm up with the Saigon side.

Alfonsi has clearly marked out his action priorities. He expects his players’ presence in fighting areas to protect the ball and also have enough time to play with the backs.

“We need to work with our scrum and line out,” the coach added.

Alfonsi, who believes that there is no such thing as a friendly in rugby and that a team is as good as dead if it doesn’t give 100 per cent every time it takes the pitch, is confident every player will perform his best to earn a national cap and make it harder for him to pick the team for the Brunei trip.

The Koupreys play another friendly against the Geckos in early June and wind up their preparations with a final tune-up game against the Cambodia Barbarians before they set off to Bandar Seri Begawan to play Mongolia, who are returning to the annual tournament after a three-year hiatus, on June 19 and home side Brunei on June 21.

Cambodia defeated Brunei 38-0 and 28-0 at the Old Stadium in the only two fixtures of Division V last year and will look to reign as titleholders for another season.

By HS Manjunath - The Phnom Penh Post - May 8, 2014


Geckos edge Koupreys

The Cambodian national rugby team were beaten 19-15 by visiting side Saigon Geckos on Saturday at the Army Field in Russey Keo district, which served as their first tune-up game ahead of their appearance at the Asian 5 Nations Division V tournament on June 19-21.

However the Koupreys can take heart in the fact that the honours were shared across all four quarters of the game, with both sides claiming the most points in one quarter each while the two others were drawn.

Cambodia’s Dul Khemrin scored the home side’s only try of the match.

Koupreys coach Jerome Alfonsi told the Post that his team had improved a lot over the past year and were ready for the A5N fixtures in Brunei.

“The first 10 minutes were very hard for the Koupreys, but the rest of the game belonged to us. We just missed more tries,” he said.

“Saigon said they never played a Koupreys team at this level.”

Alfonsi noted that all of his first choice squad members were present on Saturday, and lauded the performances by his captain and flanker Ut Vuthy, scrum half Jean-Baptiste Suberbie, and second rows Ra Doh and Samchan Pirun.

Another friendly game against the Geckos is scheduled for next month as well as a clash against the Cambodian Barbarians. The Koupreys face Mongolia in Bandar Seri Begawan on June 19 in their opening Division V fixture before playing hosts Brunei on June 21.

By Dan Riley - The Phnom Penh Post - May 11, 2014