Rugby India, which was established in 1998, is India’s sole governing organization for the sport of rugby. Rugby India is a full member of World Rugby, Asia Rugby, and the Indian Olympic Association, and is recognized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport of the Government of India (IOA).
The governing body is in charge of the growth and development of rugby in the United States, from grassroots to high-performance levels.
Rugby is part of the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and is played by the paramilitary and police forces, in addition to being included in the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) for various age categories (boys and females).
Rugby has a long and illustrious history in India, dating back to 1872. However, only in the last decade has the sport experienced a significant increase in popularity, and Rugby India has played a key role in fostering this enthusiasm across the country.
There has been a tremendous rise in participation numbers, and there are now over 120 Rugby Clubs connected to our State and District Associations in India, with competitive rugby for both men and women being actively played in 24 states.
The Indian national rugby union squad was accepted to the IRB in 2001, although it took them three years to win their first match, defeating Pakistan 56–3 in the Asian Biennial tournament’s third-tier competition.
The national team was not formed until 1998, yet when India faced Singapore in Singapore, they were defeated 85-0. In 2001, the squad was accepted into the International Rugby Board, and in 2003, the team made its maiden trip to the United Kingdom. This included matches against three Midlands sides, all of which resulted in crushing defeats, including a 153-0 thrashing at Welford Road by a Leicester Tigers XV. During their visit, they did not succeed in making a single attempt. Despite the lack of success, the director expressed optimism, saying, “It’s all a learning process for us.”
The height and body weight disparity between the two teams was enormous, but when we return to Asia, we’ll be playing against teams of similar size.” In 2007, India competed in France, Scotland, and Wales in a bid to qualify for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. For the qualifications, they were assigned to Asian Division 3, Pool B, where India finished second out of four teams with one victory, one tie, and one defeat. India was officially eliminated from the 2007 World Cup when only the first-place team advanced to the second qualification round.
They began their quest to qualify for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in 2005, but a 22–36 loss to Kazakhstan knocked them out of contention. They were similarly disappointed by an 8–8 stalemate in Guam, but they still finished second in their four-team group after defeating Malaysia 48–12. India, on the other hand, was eliminated since only the top team in each group advanced to the next round.
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The History In India
The British Raj
Rugby union, like other English sports imported to India during the British Raj, like as cricket, has a lengthy history in India. Rugby Football was first played in India during the visit of H.M.S. Galatea in 1871, when a few scratch matches were played in Calcutta and Madras. The teak goal posts that were utilized during the Calcutta Match were thereafter used by the C.F.C. until at least 1886.
On Christmas Day 1872, at CFC in Calcutta, the first known match was played between England versus a united team of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The game was so popular that it had to be rerun within a week.
The game was now in full swing. Officers were elected in January 1873, and the Club Rolls revealed a total of 137 members. Red and white broad stripes were chosen as the Club’s colors.
Rugby in India has been a low-key sport since then.
One reason for this was that the British liked to play apart from their colonial subjects, which resulted in a low level of participation by the indigenous populace. Another issue was the temperature, which meant that games had to be played late at night or early in the morning, which meant it wasn’t very popular with the colonists.
The 80’s and 90’s
The Indian RFU was managed out of the Irish Consulate at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club’s chambers during its lowest point in the 1980s. However, in the 1990s, a pretty effective effort helped to resurrect the game.
In 1986, Indian representatives were among those who attended the International Rugby Football Board’s centennial conference.
India is placed 65th out of 96 countries in the IRB ( International Rugby Board) world rankings, with 57,000 registered players. Kolkata is often regarded as India’s rugby capital.
On Christmas Day 1872, a rugby match was played in Calcutta between 20 players representing England on one side and 20 players representing Scotland, Ireland, and Wales on the other.
The match was such a success that it was played again a week later – rugby had made its way to India. These rugby fans intended to organize a club in the region, and the aforementioned matches were the catalysts for the Calcutta Football Club’s foundation in January 1873.
In 1874, the Calcutta Club became a member of the Rugby Football Union. Despite the fact that the Indian environment was not ideal for rugby, the club thrived in its first year. When the free bar had to be eliminated, however, membership numbers plummeted. Other sports, like tennis and polo, which were thought to be more suited to the local environment, we’re gaining traction in terms of player numbers.
The game faded and nearly died out in 1877, leaving a full coffer behind. The wise G.A.J. Rothney, who was serving as the Club’s Captain, Hon. Secretary, and Treasurer at the time, proposed that the funds be used to purchase an Indian-made cup to be presented to the Rugby Football Union, the game’s global governing body. These funds were withdrawn in the form of silver coins, which were subsequently melted down to create the magnificent Calcutta Cup.
The members chose to dissolve the club, but in order to preserve the club’s identity, they removed the club’s finances from the bank, which were in Silver Rupees, and had them melted down and turned into a cup, which they donated to the RFU in 1878, with the condition that it be contested for yearly.
The cup is made in India and is around 18 inches (45 cm) tall. The body is elegantly etched with three king cobras as handles. The elephant on the domed lid is claimed to have been replicated from the Viceroy’s own stock and comes complete with a howdah.
The Other Calcutta Cup
In 1884, the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club (CC&FC) re-established a rugby department, and in 1890, the Calcutta Rugby Union Challenge Cup, which was quickly renamed the Calcutta Cup, was established as an inter-club trophy.
Jungle Crows won the cup after defeating CC&FC. Calcutta Cricket and Football Club Panthers won the second division trophy.
The India Rugby Union Team sought to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the second time in 2008. This time, however, qualifying was different since instead of a group stage, India had to compete in and win the 2008 Asian Five Nations to go to Round 2. India, however, lost their first match to Thailand and had to settle for third place following a second-place match triumph over Pakistan, in which India recorded their largest-ever victory, defeating Pakistan 92–0.
Is Rugby Played In India?
India placed first in the worldwide rankings for World Rugby’s development program, with 214,053 new rugby participants, according to the 2020 Get Into Rugby (GIR) Statistic Report 2019. Rugby India started GIR in 2013, and the recent reports reveal that:
- Male Players have increased in number from 61,194 in 2016 to 112,712 in 2019. Over the last three years, this is an 85 percent increase.
- Female players have increased in number from 42,032 in 2016 to 101,341 in 2019. This is a 141 percent growth in the previous three years.
Rugby is still seen as a colonial relic in India. However, in the last decade and a half, the sport has progressively moved away from its ‘club sport’ stigma throughout the country. Rugby Sevens was reintroduced as an Olympic event in 2009 (Rugby had previously been an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1924) and was featured in the 2016 Games. The IRFU was able to raise financing from World Rugby and Indian government organizations by using the ‘Olympic Games’ moniker, which piqued the curiosity of the younger populace.
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