India hosted the Asia Rugby U18s Girls Sevens tournament at the weekend and did so in some style.
The hosts finished fourth in the tournament, eventually won by China, one of many success stories to come out of the 12-team event.
Not only was the top try scorer Indian, Sweety Kumari scoring no fewer than 15 tries, but the event was played in front of more than 15,000 spectators across the three days – an incredible number for many players making their international debuts.
With many of the Indian players having taken part or even coached a Get Into Rugby programme, so too were many of the fans witnessing what will go down as an historic moment for rugby in India.
Captain Sandhya Rai was amazed by the support her side received.
“We had a lot of children come to support us and to think that we are playing on our home ground it helped to motivate us even more,” said Rai.
“The competition is at such a high level and we performed well in finishing fourth. There are a lot of competitions in rugby for girls in India now and this makes competition for places.
“This only makes us stronger as a team and we have improved because of all the activity going on in the background. Get Into Rugby is doing a great job to create awareness of rugby to help teach them about it and how to play it. Now everyone knows about rugby – it has changed my life.”
Rai’s feelings are echoed by her teammate and scorer of 15 tries at the event, Kumari.
“Rugby in India has really grown and improved,” added Kumari. “Before hardly anyone knew or played rugby but now everyone knows and so many more players are playing.
“For example where I am from, Bihar, there was maybe one or two players that came into the national camp and now we have so many players.
“We really enjoyed playing in this tournament with so many supporters. It was the first time India hosted such an event and we loved every moment of it with all the support and love we are getting from the crowd.
“Rugby has given me a new life and identity. Now everyone knows me and my name Sweety and now I am famous through rugby.”