History was made in 2018 as the inaugural Indian National Women’s Rugby 15s team participated in their first ever International rugby fifteens tournament, the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship (ARWC) held in Singapore in June.
Debutants India faced hosts Singapore, ranked 34th in the world, in the first game and then were up against the Philippines, ranked 51st in the world, in game two.
It was an exciting but daunting task for the unranked Indian women’s team as they prepared for this tournament.
Women’s Rugby in India only began back in 2008, with the first Indian Women’s Rugby Sevens team participating in the Asia Rugby Sevens Championship in 2009.
As for fifteens in India, it was initiated only at the end of 2016 and has grown significantly since then.
Similar to the men’s tournament, the Indian Women now have a 16 team two-tier rugby fifteens tournament with a promotion and relegation system in place.
As a build up to the ARWC, in addition to the All India Women’s Rugby 15s Division 1 & 2, Rugby India hosted the first ever National Inter-Zonal Tournament in April.
This tournament became a platform for shortlisting and selecting players to join the Indian National Training Camp for the ARWC.
A total of 45 girls from across the country were shortlisted to join the three and a half week National Camp being held in Mumbai from which the final 26 players were selected to represent the country.
The team comprised of players from all walks of life including two mothers. The average age of the team was 22 with our oldest player being 35 and youngest 17.
The training camp was both challenging and demanding as it comprised of the technical, tactical and physical aspects involved in Rugby 15s.
One thing it did lack was actual game time as a team and match practice against quality opposition which meant our first game against Singapore would be the very first time we would be tested as a team for 80 minutes.
Nonetheless it was a dream come true for all of us. Stepping onto the field to line up and sing the national anthem for the very first time was very emotional and gave each one of us a real sense of pride.
We didn’t know what to expect from the game but we all knew deep down that whatever happens on the field, we all would play with our hearts and keep fighting and enjoy every second of the 80 minutes.
We played head to head with Singapore and were relentless in our defence not allowing them to score a try for the first 36 minutes. Eventually the experienced Singaporean team squeezed in two tries against us before the end of the first half.
Despite being down by 10 points, there was that hunger and determination among the girls. The second half saw Singapore score a few more tries but the never give-up attitude and fighting spirit of the Indian girls earned them a hard fought and well deserved try.
Though the result of our very first International was not as we wanted (30-05), we felt a real sense of pride to have represented our country and managed to score in our first ever test.
Post our first game, it was all about recovery as we analysed our performance and regrouped in preparation for the next game against the Philippines.
The opportunity to participate at the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship is a huge step forward for the development of Women’s Rugby in India.
All in all, to sum up our experience and performance in our first outing was memorable and commendable – we managed to turn quite a few heads to take notice of the Rugby India Women’s Team and also won a few hearts on the way with our determination, commitment and fighting spirit display on field.