Much belated and not-so-creatively titled… but here we are!
While the rest of the world had it’s eyes glued to the rucking and mauling going on down at the world cup in New Zealand, the city of Pune was focused on the All-Asia Women’s 7s Championship… which just happened to take place on the outskirts of town!
Asia is quickly becoming a hotbed of the rugby 7s movement. Bolstered by it’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics — and the ensuing developmental push that’s taking place — 7s is sweeping across the continent. Seasoned vets (there were a few moms among Kazakhstan’s ranks) and fledgling players (team Malaysia is the only group of female ruggers in the country!) alike came down to Pune to play on October 1st and 2nd.
The game of 7s is an abbreviated and faster-paced version of the classic rugby 15s. With only seven plays per side playing two seven-minute halves per match, the game favors speed instead of brawn: the goal is to spread the field, keep the ball in bounds and get as many quick runs into the try zone as possible. And, as someone at the tournament pointed out to me: women is Asia are built to play 7s. Usually smaller in stature, they often have the ideal body type for the game. While it may be a tougher task for them stand up to a Samoan on the 15s pitch, these women can certainly hold their own amongst the international 7s crowd.
I spent the two days at the tournament running up and down the sidelines with my camera doing my paparazzi thang. Somewhere along the lines I found myself with a ‘match official’ badge around my neck and, after a quick refresher in touch-judging, the shiny new title of “Assistant Referee” (ruhrohhh, I say…).
But the crew — made up of referees from all over Asia — and I had a grand old time… and everything went as smoothly as one could hope. 🙂 I guess I can now add Expert Flag Waver and Professional Conversion Spotter to my resume…
At the end of the second day, China was deemed victor in the final against Kazakhstan; the India women ranked in at 8th.
The stories of the women varied vastly: I was surprised to hear all sorts of American accents only to turn around and spy Hong Kong, a team of made up of mostly expats; Team Lao, headed by a team of coaches who had played for the Twin City Amazons, was mostly comprised of women from small villages. Malaysia brought together women poached from other sports. The women from Iran, orthodox in the religious beliefs, played in full covering.
In our down time — the teams all stayed in a hotel right outside of the stadium — the teams all had meals together and, on the last night, a dinner reception with some drum & bass beats. The girls from India got the party started as soon as their food was gobbled down: conga lines, pelvic thrusts and jai-hos abound! The coolest part? Learning everyone’s own dance. I think we all picked up a few different cultural jigs that night.
So now, the most important event on the Rugby India calendar is checked off.
I’m mapping out an epic cross-country trek: north, south, east and west I’ll head in search of all things women’s rugby. Perhaps I’ll head down to the beaches of Goa where things are getting started as we speak, or up to Manipur where they not only play an indigenous rugby-esque game with a coconut, but are known across India for the athletic prowess of their women…
But, until I chart up my little map and all of this kicks off…
Stay tuned for some interesting stories coming you way including one about my dear friend Shweta, a professional Bharatanatyam (the national dance of India) dancer-cum-rugger; and the lovely Rani, a former Iranian national team member that has come back to Bangalore and now calls team India home.
And it continues…