It’s a sport dominated by the military as far as India and China are concerned. So, when the two teams took the field in the opening match of the HSBC Five-Nation Tournament, it wasn’t surprising that nine of the 22 players doing duty for India were from the army.
The physical test that a rugby player endures is well known in a country that may not necessarily know much about the sport. And, perhaps, that’s the reason why the sport is so heavily dependent on the army for its growth.
Captain Nasser Hussain calls it a complete sport because of the all-round physical demands of the game.
“Rugby is not about gym strength alone. Fitness, agility, speed and a host of other factors go into the composition of a rugby side. Bringing the military expertise helps. We try to incorporate military discipline and training in our practice sessions,” he says.
The inclination towards military techniques in rugby is not restricted to India. Although China lost 94-0 to the hosts, their coach admitted that his side comprised of players drawn from the People’s Liberation Army.
“We build upon the training these players receive as part of their military training. A little customisation to suit the needs of rugby is given but their military background is an advantage,” says Liu Yong.
Yong, however, says the sport is also about talent and a military background is not the only requisite. “Good diet, strength-training, cardio, etc go on to make a good team. Civilians have also excelled in this sport. Dedication and love is what counts the most,” he said.
China have two sides, one comprising of players drawn from the army, while the other has an equal number of military and civilian players. Even the India skipper feels the trend to select the players from the army is not right.
“Some of the civilian players are better than the ones from the army in certain respects. Rugby has different needs and we aim to achieve the right combination for positive results,” he says.
On Wednesday, the team achieved just that result they were looking for. Now they are fancying their chances in the tournament.