Asia Rugby are identifying a number of influential women in the region as part of this year’s International Women’s Day.
With women’s rugby on the up in Asia, this is no small part down to many representatives in each country.
In India for example, Neha Pardeshi has been a shining light of influence in recent years as she has been central to the sport’s growth and popularity, especially among women.
We sat down and spoke to her about the recent development of women’s rugby in her country.
AR: What has been happening in India since last year to help grow Rugby?
NP: 2018 and 2019 were very crucial for Rugby in India. The game witnessed massive growth in terms of participation numbers with India ranking first in Asia and second globally in the Get Into Rugby Program, reaching out to 174,000 new participants 40% female) in 2018.
Currently the sport is actively played in 24 states across the country, and more than 40 percent women contribute to the overall rugby playing population in the nation
Societe Generale support has assisted the Indian Rugby Football Union to create more opportunities for players through tournaments, successfully hosting over 25 national tournaments last year alone.
These tournaments served as a platform to gauge the increase in participation and provide a platform for players to be selected for the Indian national team.
The sport is also a permanent discipline in the SGFI’s National School Games for the U14, U17 and U19 categories.
Both formats of the game have been included in the National University calendar for both men and women and the inclusion in the school and university games has been a major boost for rugby, providing a clear pathway for players.
AR: The U18 Girls tournament last year was hugely successful, how important was it for India?
NP: To promote the sport in Indian youth, Rugby India hosted the Asian U18 girls Rugby 7s tournament inBhubaneswar. This International tournament was hosted in in association with the Department of Youth Affairs & Sport, Govt. of Odisha.
The Under 18 Girls tournament was extremely important as the awareness of Rugby across the country was massive. The event marked a major milestone for Rugby India, being the first ever International age grade competition to be hosted in the country.
The overall response was overwhelming. The tournament received over 25,000 spectators across the three days and it garnered a lot of interest not only in the State of Odisha but also India as it was broadcasted live on Facebook with more than 200,000 views.
AR: With it being IWD, how is women’s rugby developing in India and what initiations are taking place ?
NP: Women’s Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports globally and the Indian Rugby Football Union has always given men and women equal opportunities. All our rugby events and activities are gender inclusive and cater to both boys and girls. Rugby is one of the very few sports, which sees both boys and girls play at the same ground, at the same time. The rise in popularity in the women’s game is evident and the results we are seeing on the international level are very encouraging and we hope to see our women’s team crack into the top five in Asia within two years.
Mike spent time coaching the Indian U17 girl's side and had an incredible impact 🙌 pic.twitter.com/XzZByOEKq0
— Asia Rugby (@asiarugby) March 6, 2019