JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

State of the union gets a clean bill of health

Date

Spiro Zavos

Thrills and spills … the excitement of sevens, as seen in this match in London last weekend, is driving the growth of rugby in China.

Thrills and spills … the excitement of sevens, as seen in this match in London last weekend, is driving the growth of rugby in China. Photo: Getty Images

WHEN the 2.285 million strong People's Liberation Army of China designated rugby as one of its 10 core sports, I was told by the chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Union, Rob Fisher, that officials had written to him asking for some coaches. The NZRU asked how many coaches they wanted. "They suggested 1000 coaches would be a good start," Fisher told me. And how many did the NZRU send? "We sent them one coach."

Just as a journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step, the long march of rugby into China has started with that single coach. Last week the IRB signed a memorandum of understanding with the leading manufacturing city of Guangzhou (population 12.7 million) and the Chinese Rugby Football Association to make it a growth hub for rugby. The city hosted the Asian Games in 2010, which included a sevens tournament. A capacity crowd of 30,000 filled the University Town Stadium for the tournament. China's national side has already played Test rugby and the women's team took part in the IRB Women's Seven Challenge Cup in London last weekend. Next year, for the first time, sevens will be included in the China National Games at Guangzhou.

Asia has 80 per cent of the world's youth. The IRB has targeted the region and especially China as a "key growth area" for rugby. There will be a significant push leading up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019. But the main engine driving growth, in Asia and throughout the rest of the world, is sevens, which returns to the Olympics at Rio in 2016. At Twickenham last weekend, 100,000 spectators gathered to watch the two days of the IRB Sevens World Series. Spain reached the quarter-finals for the first time. Fiji won the tournament. Australia (which won the Tokyo leg in the World Series) was defeated by Argentina in the plate final. New Zealand won the World Series for the 10th time. This year's series was watched by a record 547,500 fans in nine tournaments around the world. The Sevens World Cup is being hosted in Moscow (an emerging rugby city) in June 2013.

Australia is the women's sevens rugby world champion. But it seems to me that rugby unions around Australia have left most of the sevens development to the ARU. Now that Nick Farr-Jones (a great sevens player) has been appointed at the chairman of the NSW Rugby Union, we might get some action on promoting sevens in the state with special club and schools tournaments, perhaps. He might consider, too, a rugby brother-city relationship with Sydney and Guangzhou.

This weekend, Leinster could win its third Heineken Cup final in the past four years. Their opponents are Ulster. There will be a sell-out 90,000 crowd at Twickenham. Crowds and television ratings in New Zealand are up by more than 30 per cent for this year's Super Rugby tournament. Similar television ratings apply in Australia. And to ensure that the spectacle aspect of rugby continues to be enhanced, the IRB this week announced five proposed amendments that will further speed up the game. A quick throw-in "anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player's goal line" will be allowed. The fielder of the ball should be able to start a running attack more easily with this change. In turn, the change will force teams to eschew kicking for touch. The ball will be in play longer, which will lead to more running play. Another amendment will force halfbacks to "use-it-or-lose-it" within five seconds of the referee's call with available ball at the back of the ruck. This will end the tedium of watching halfbacks standing over a rucked ball like emperor penguins guarding an egg.

This year's Super Rugby tournament is the most interesting season since 1996. Scotland and Wales (the most exciting team in Europe) are playing the Wallabies here next month. To borrow a phrase from American politics, the ''State of the Rugby Union'' here and abroad is strong and growing stronger.

spiro@theroar.com.au

16 comments so far

  • Time for me to wake up, listen and watch.

    Commenter
    good one
    Location
    Forster, NSW
    Date and time
    May 19, 2012, 8:42AM
    • The IRB tells us that Sri Lanka has more young registered rugby players than Australia, Japan, NZ, Argentina. How's that for a growth area?

      Commenter
      Gravity Basher
      Date and time
      May 19, 2012, 10:09AM
      • I'm an australian of sri lankan origin. As a former colony of England, rugby has always been a popular sport in SL just like cricket and soccer. They have a healthy school and club competetions.

        Commenter
        juts1e
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 4:25PM
    • From someone who has founded a rugby club here and organizes one of the biggest 10's tournament in China, China will never be good at any team sport under the current system of state run elite sport programs, especially rugby.

      Rugby grows here year by year, which is awesome, but its not because of anything that the CRFU or CCP has done. Purely because of grass roots enthusiasts, either foreigners or curious locals.

      Commenter
      Si
      Location
      China
      Date and time
      May 19, 2012, 1:05PM
      • @ Si
        When you say 'here' I presume you are talking about China?
        If that is the case then don't lose heart as the machinations of all political parties is self interest. Doesn't matter whether it's in China or 'here' it's all the same.
        Grow you good thing !
        Quiet ironically it is very much the peoples' game - light the torch and it will burn. Burn baby, burn.

        Commenter
        Machooka
        Location
        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        May 19, 2012, 7:37PM
      • Yeah, good point! I mean, using the numbers logic why hasn't Chinese football done anything? Because of endemic corruption at management level and beyond and because despite it's popularity, the statistics - although I don't have them to hand - suggest that less and less kids are actually enticed into playing football for a variety of reasons. Just compare HK, where an English political and judicial system has led to a more liberal environment, and where rugby continues to thrive.

        Commenter
        chracol
        Date and time
        May 19, 2012, 9:42PM
      • The corruption isn't really the problem, well not the biggest anyway, the problem is the Govt doesnt support ANY grass roots sports. Not just rugby. Ok, you like rugby, cool, now, where to find a pitch?? There are none. same for football (soccer), and basketball, which are much more popular here. There simply is no place to just go and kick a footy. It's not about space either, Taiwan has tons of rugby fields as they get support from the Govt, and rugby is played by far more locals there with only 1 or 2 foreign clubs, the rest are locally run and they even have a proper competition run by the TRU.

        The Chinese govt supports elite sports thru the universities and the PLA only, outside that its really difficult to get into. But now 7s is an Olympic sport. So of course the Govt wants to pursue it, and all universities are trying to set up a team now, they have no money to fund a team or coach tho. They only play amongst themselves, which is kind of the blind leading the blind, and only at one off competitions like the National Games or University Games. There is no league for them.

        Commenter
        Si
        Location
        China
        Date and time
        May 20, 2012, 10:56AM
      • (cont.)
        A very few of them are trying to engage with the foreign clubs, but there is always problems, who knows, hopefully it will get better soon.

        The IRB has a rep in China, but they won't even come to see our tournament, we even supply our own refs thru the Hong Kong RFU, and like I say, it's probably the biggest thing for rugby in China every year. Basically, the IRB isn't concerned with non sanctioned clubs here, even tho we want to support (and do invite) the Chinese teams, as more teams means a better playing environment for everyone.

        Commenter
        Si
        Location
        China
        Date and time
        May 20, 2012, 10:58AM
      • @ Si
        Don't lose heart keep chippin' away. As the Ad says 'it won't happen overnight but it will happen' !
        Your's is a great battle but with will and commitment you may make a difference. I realise that Basketball should be HUGE in China but alas through what-ever reason this has stalled. This is not the fault of the people but the short-term needs or ambitions of the Party. China should be a significant player in two of the worlds' biggest sports ie Basketball and now (possibly) Rugby !

        Commenter
        Machooka
        Location
        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        May 20, 2012, 6:33PM
    • I think you will find that Sevens tournaments are fairly common at school boy level already Spiros.
      Additionally I think the state unions work pretty hard @ developing the game @ junior levels and that comment is pretty insulting to them.
      I do think it is great that rugby is spreading into more countries across the globe. China with such a huge population could be a super power in no time. Why hasn't australia sent coaches? - perhaps protecting their own back yard as usual.

      Commenter
      RB
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 19, 2012, 3:11PM

      More comments

      Make a comment

      You are logged in as [Logout]

      All information entered below may be published.

      Error: Please enter your screen name.

      Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Please enter your comment.

      Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

      Post to

      You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

      Thank you

      Your comment has been submitted for approval.

      Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

      Super Rugby 2015

      Round 1
      Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
      CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
      BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
      Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
      LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
      BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
      Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
      SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
      BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
      WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 2
      Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
      CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
      REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
      Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
      BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
      HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
      RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
      Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
      STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
      SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 3
      Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
      HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
      FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
      Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
      CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
      CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
      REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
      Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
      BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
      LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 4
      Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
      CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
      BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
      Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
      BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
      RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
      Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
      CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
      STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 5
      Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
      HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
      FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
      Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
      CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
      HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
      RED vs BRU 29 Stats
      Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
      STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
      CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 6
      Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
      HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
      REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
      Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
      CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
      Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
      BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
      SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
      WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
      View All Fixtures
      Round 7
      Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
      HUR 36 vs REB 12 Stats
      RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
      Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
      CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
      HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
      WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
      Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
      SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
      BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
      View All Fixtures
      Round 8
      Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
      HUR vs STO 18:35WS
      REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
      Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
      CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
      BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
      Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
      SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
      LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
      View All Fixtures
      Round 9
      Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
      BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
      Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
      CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
      WAR vs STO 20:40AS
      FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
      Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
      LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
      BUL vs RED 04:10Loftus Versfeld
      View All Fixtures
      Round 10
      Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
      CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
      Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
      HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
      HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
      BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
      FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
      Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
      SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
      CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
      View All Fixtures
      Round 11
      Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
      CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
      BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
      Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
      CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
      WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
      Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
      LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
      STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
      RED vs HUR 17:05SS
      View All Fixtures
      Round 12
      Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
      HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
      BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
      Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
      BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
      HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
      REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
      Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
      CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
      BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
      View All Fixtures
      Round 13
      Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
      CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
      REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
      Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
      HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
      FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
      Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
      LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
      STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
      View All Fixtures
      Round 14
      Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
      BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
      RED vs REB 20:40SS
      Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
      HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
      WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
      Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
      LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
      CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
      View All Fixtures
      Round 15
      Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
      CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
      RED vs SHA 20:40SS
      Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
      BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
      WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
      FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
      Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
      CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
      STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
      View All Fixtures
      Round 16
      Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
      CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
      BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
      Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
      SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
      HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
      FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
      Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
      STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
      LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
      View All Fixtures
      Round 17
      Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
      HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
      FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
      Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
      REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
      BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
      RED vs CHF 20:40SS
      Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
      CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
      STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
      View All Fixtures
      Round 18
      Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
      BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
      REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
      Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
      BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
      CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
      WAR vs RED 20:40AS
      Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
      BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
      SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
      View All Fixtures
      Round 19
      Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
      7 vs 7 10:00
      Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
      7 vs 7 10:00
      View All Fixtures
      Round 20
      Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
      7 vs 7 10:00
      Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
      7 vs 7 10:00
      View All Fixtures
      Round 21
      Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
      7 vs 7 10:00
      View All Fixtures
      Super Rugby 2015
      Overall standings
      Team P W L D +/- Pts
      Hurricanes 6 6 0 0 85 27
      Brumbies 6 4 2 0 73 20
      Stormers 5 4 1 0 33 16
      Chiefs 6 4 2 0 36 19
      Sharks 6 3 3 0 5 15
      Waratahs 5 3 2 0 24 14
      Highlanders 5 3 2 0 4 15
      Bulls 5 3 2 0 12 14
      View all
       
      Featured advertisers