LAST WEEK, on the eve of his first international cap, Madley’s Ed Carne was more nervous about nailing the chorus of the Singapore national anthem than he was about playing.
Representing the country his grandmother was born in, Carne started his international rugby career with a try against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.
Now playing professionally for Stade Rouennais in France, it had been Carne’s dream for the nine years since informing Singapore of his eligibility to play international rugby.
Running out on the perfectly-curated turf used for the international sevens tournament hosted by Dubai, the former Hereford Sixth Form student got his chance.
As far as forays into the top-tier rugby go, it was a successful one.
In addition to his try, Carne’s team notched a crucial win in the Asian Five Nations, meaning that while they are unable to qualify for the top-tier this year, it puts them in a good position to move up and take on the likes of Japan the following season.
Japan and Hong Kong still remain the two big beasts of the Asian qualifiers, but with one automatic World Cup spot open for the region, and one play-off spot, there is still an outside chance of Carne, 27, heading to the 2019 World Cup.
“It was something I had consciously dreaming of for a long time,” said Carne.
“The standard was harder than playing in France, but with the adrenaline of playing a Test pumping, I didn’t feel like I got as tired.
“It was a long day beforehand - I was so excited I had to calm myself down.
“I was trying and struggling to learn the words to the national anthem and I was more nervous about that than playing.”
A former Luctonians colt and Hereford Sixth Form student, the centre is heading into the Federale Two play-offs with his club Stade Rouennais.
Under the guidance of a new coach, ex-Worcester boss Richard Hill, Carne said he has rediscovered his confidence on the field, having enjoyed a consistent starting role since joining the club last summer.
Rouen have also been understanding over his international commitments, and with more rest weeks built into the French season Carne was able to attend a training camp in Singapore last month as well as being released for last week’s game.
Rugby is developing fast in Asia, Carne said, and under head coach, former Gloucester and England back-row James Forrester, the Singapore national side are making a push to establish themselves alongside the region’s bigger names.
A large part of that is integrating European-based players and ex-pats with the squad’s native players; a policy less evident in UAE’s ex-pat-heavy line-up.
Carnes said: “I made the effort to spend time with the native players, we got on well, but I flet i was important to do.”
For Singapore each European player rooms with a local player – Carne shared with fly-half Fahmy Marah - and Carne was also determined to learn the chorus to the national anthem before his first cap as a sign of respect to Singapore’s rugby tradition and to his new team-mates.
After celebrating with the team, Carne faced the nine-hour flight back to France to following day and was straight back into training.
Finishing second in their league, Rouen open their play-off campaign on Saturday against Surenes as they continue their long-term plan of becoming upping the North’s representation in the country’s higher leagues.