Neha Pardeshi is anticipating an exciting Asia Rugby Women’s Championship Division I for all four sides, including her own.
India, Singapore, China and the Philippines will compete for this year’s ARWC Division I title, but there is more at stake for Pardeshi’s side.
With the winner of this tournament continuing in the Women’s Rugby World Cup qualification pathway, Pardeshi has high hopes for India.
But having only competed in their first-ever women’s international 12 months ago in the same competition, her expectations are realistic.
“We had a great experience and exposure last year in Singapore,” said Pardeshi.
“We got to learn so many factors about fifteens. India played against Singapore and Philippines last year which were ranked higher than us.
“Although it was our first time playing 80 minutes we believe we gave them a tough fight.”
This year there is a lot more exposure for rugby in India, with Naas Botha involved with the set up and the recent World Rugby landmark campaign focusing on Sweta Shahi.
At the end of 2018 the U18 Championship was also hosted in India, adding further excitement for the sport in and outside of the country.
“The Under 18 Championship was a success and following that we have been spreading awareness and promotion of rugby.
“The tournament was a major boost for that. Over the world people have started showing interest in players especially the women playing in India which is a step towards boosting women’s rugby in India.”
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In India, similar to the men, the women now have a 16 team two-tier rugby fifteens tournament with a promotion and relegation system in place. It is one of the strongest competitive women’s domestic leagues in Asia.
This alone is providing women players a pathway into the international set up.
India are set to play in only their third and fourth internationals, having made history in 2018 with their first-ever women’s 15s internationals against Singapore and the Philippines.
This year they start their campaign against the Philippines on 19 June.
“As last year it was our first-ever time playing International fifteens we surprised ourselves on how we played and performed.
“This year our aim is to win matches and show that India is capable to put a mark in 15’s too.
“We have been training with coach Naas Botha and we are preparing us for the upcoming tournament.
“There are so many new structures we get to learn from them. We are all really looking forward to the tournament.”