India has been a big driver of the Asia 1 Million project and is helping build a legacy and a pathway for the future of a game

Rugby in India has a rich history dating back to 1924 when the inaugural All India & South East Asia Rugby Championship  was first played on Indian soil.

2018 marks the year of the tournament’s 85th edition and the entire rugby fraternity is eagerly awaiting the coveted tournament which will be played at the

Bombay Gymkhana, one of the oldest playing rugby clubs in the world.

As a testament to the growth seen across the country, Rugby India was one of the 4 pioneering unions who were selected to run project Asia 1 Million.

The A1M project is an Asia Rugby initiative that kick-started in early 2016 with the goal of reaching out to over 1 million new participants across Asia leading up to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

The project has come a long way in India. Having successfully introduced the Get into Rugby program (GIR) in all zones across the country, India has set a high standard in both the quality and delivery of the project which has reflected in the number of participants (both men and women) at all levels.

 The first quarter of 2018 has seen success in securing long term pathways for players, coaches and officials which are instrumental and will leave a lasting legacy.

Rugby India’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, their persistence has resulted in rugby being included as a core sport in the National School Games Calendar.

The Inaugural Under-14 National School Games (Touch Rugby Championship) for boys & girls was held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha from 12-13 January. A total of 18 boys teams and 13 girls teams participated in the event.

The inclusion in the U14 National school’s calendar marked a major milestone for the union. Having successfully conducted events for the U17 and U19 categories for the past three years, the U14s was a box waiting to be ticked for some time.

Another major feat for the union was the overwhelming participation they received for the U17 and U19 National Rugby championships which were held simultaneously in Hyderabad, Telangana which saw over 50 state teams (across all categories) compete for top honours.

With teams competing from all over the country, these tournaments are helping further spread rugby to all regions of India and one can see rugby slowly but surely becoming the go to team sport for the youth in the country.

Part of Rugby India’s success is due to the fact that it has secured a corporate sponsor for not only its international and domestic competitions but for its grassroots rugby development as well.

India has a population of 1.34 billion, with more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. Indians are extremely passionate about sport and rugby is slowly increasing its footprint across the country.

As part of the pathway for the very first time rugby was also included as part of the National University Games calendar  – yet another major milestone for Rugby India as this proved   to be the missing link between school rugby and club/state rugby.

The event held from 14-18 March at the Punjabi University in Patiala featured both rugby sevens and fifteens for men and women. A total of 24 men’s teams & 20 women’s teams participated in the rugby sevens format while six men’s teams and four women’s teams participated in the rugby fifteens format of the game.

The combination of the two formats in the University games ensures future specialised professional players can be sourced and developed.

In line with Asia Rugby and Project A1M, Rugby India has been focusing on gender equality and inclusion at all levels with a prime example being the rugby celebrations held across India in celebration of International Women’s Day which brought the entire rugby fraternity together.

Joining the world community in celebrating IWD2018 saw an upsurge of women’s participation across the country in Get Into Rugby festivals and tournaments – in excess of 1500 new women players in seven states.

As part of the celebration, Rugby India also created a short video for #IWD2018 

India being the seventh largest country by sheer size and the country’s diverse languages creates unique challenges. Limited resources (infrastructure, manpower and equipment) are challenges that the team faces and that creates obstacles in the sustained delivery of the program which effects the long term retention of participants. But Rugby India is up for the challenge.

Rugby India has not compromised on quality in any part in its delivery of the program.

The success of its on ground team led by former national team captain and GM Rugby India Nasser Hussain is clearly evident in the multiple success stories and the record number of participants the project has reached out to.

Rugby is truly changing the lives of the Indian youth and its helping build a legacy and a pathway for the future of a game, Rugby India’s ambitious goal to be the top 3 team sport in the country is slowly becoming an achievable target.

Credit Text & Photos: Asia Rugby

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