Scotland and Italy have arrived in Singapore ahead of the first top-tier Test match to be played in the country.
The two teams will go head to head at the National Stadium in Kallang on Saturday as they both begin summer tours which also include fixtures against Australia and Fiji.
Saturday’s game should be a unique experience, with a crowd of between 10,000 and 20,000 expected to take up the opportunity to watch a high-level contest.
“For our players it was exciting to tell them that we were to be part of the first international 15-a-side game to be played here,” said Scotland coach Gregor Townsend after his players were formally welcomed to the city.
“The first game of a tour is always one you are building up to and I am excited. We have had three weeks of camp, which was a bonus, and have used that time productively.
“I have enjoyed it, as have the other new coaches. We are fortunate with the group of players we have; they work hard, have got a lot of confidence from the last two seasons and are desperate to build on that.”
The location is only part of the novelty for Townsend, who will be taking charge of Scotland for the first time after replacing Vern Cotter.
“It still feels a bit unreal arriving for my first Test match in Singapore,” the former Scotland assistant said.
“From a coaching perspective, though, the last three weeks have been real. It has started. You put a game plan together, you are working with the players and getting to know some. You have the tracksuit on.”
Italy coach Conor O’Shea believes the two teams have a responsibility to put on a display that will help the game grow in front of new fans.
“It is incredible,” he said of the opportunity. “You don’t really realise when you are in it, you don’t really realise what you are doing, but after the event, when you see what it means to people around here and understand the development that is going into the game here, it hits home.
“Part of our job is about the here and now, but also part is to make sure that rugby grows as a game around the world. If we can be any part of making that happen, it is an incredible thing.
“The focus is on Saturday but we are part of the bigger family and to have a small impact on rugby in this part of the world is a big honour.”
Officials in Singapore hope this is the first of several games to be played here as they pitch the nation as an ideal staging post for teams preparing for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, where the conditions will be similar.
“We are so glad we are able to have the top teams coming here and I hope there will be more to come,” said Low Teo Ping, the Singapore rugby union president.
“This is the first Test match between two Tier One teams to be played in Southeast Asia and we are looking forward to it in a crowded, iconic national stadium where the conditions will be fantastic.”