Origins: Playing Matches & Formation of National Governing Bodies (Unions)
Rugby in Asia dates back as long as that in England, where the world’s first rugby football ‘union’, the RFU, was established in 1871.
The first recorded instance of a team being established and rugby being played was in Japan in 1866 with the founding of the Yokohama Football Club. Matches, mainly between British service personnel, were played on the Garrison Parade Ground in Yamate, Yokohama. Records from 1874 illustrate British sailors also staging a match in Yokohama.
British colonialism (via the East India Trading Company) introduced the Game to many countries during governance of the Straits Settlements in South East Asia; Hong Kong in the East and through the Raj in South Asia from the late 19th century and in the early 20th century.
The earliest trace of Rugby in India dates back to scratch matches played in Calcutta and Madras during the visit of H.M.S. Galatea in 1871. The teak goal posts used on the occasion of the 1st Calcutta match were afterwards used by the Calcutta Football Club (CFC) up to at least 1886.
The next recorded match was played on Christmas day 1872 at CFC between a team calling itself England and a combined team of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
In 1879, the first ‘union’ in Asia was founded in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.
In Thailand in 1901, King Chulalongkorn graciously established the Royal Bangkok Sports Club as a venue where foreign residents could play their sports. Rugby was one of the popular sports at that time played by British Businessmen.
The ‘All India’ & South Asia (Men’s 15s) Rugby Tournament started in 1924 and continues to this day.
Karachi Gymkhana club members introduced the Game in Karachi (then in India and now in Pakistan), marking out a pitch on Bath Island in 1925 for the first rugby ‘season’ there.
The Siam Rugby Football Union was founded in 1937.
The Singapore Cricket Club 7s started in 1946 and is the world’s 3rd oldest ongoing 7s tournament (preceded by the Melrose 7s – where 7s began – and the Middlesex 7s).
The Malaysian COBRA club claims to have started the 10-a-side variation of the Game in 1967.
Western expatriates in the Oil & Gas industry introduced the Game into the Middle East Gulf states (West Asia) in the early 1970s.In Central Asia the Game flourished amongst strong clubs in major cities of the Former Soviet Union. The Game now continues in both regions under National Governing Bodies in a number of countries.
The Hong Kong 7s, which started in 1976, arguably put Asia on the global Rugby map. The annual Sevens World Series tournament was a driving force behind the phenomenal growth of 7s and to Rugby’s re-introduction into the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and is on the ‘bucket’ list of events to attend for anyone associated with the Game in Asia.
The table below shows the annual Asia Rugby Men’s 15’s Champion Union since the competition began.
|1969||Tokyo||5||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|1972||Hong Kong||7||Japan||Hong Kong|
|1974||Colombo||8||Japan||Sri Lanka||South Korea|
|1978||Kuala Lumpur||7||Japan||South Korea||Singapore|
|1980||Taipei||8||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|1982||Singapore||8||South Korea||Japan||Hong Kong|
|1984||Fukuoka||8||Japan||South Korea||Chinese Taipei|
|1988||Hong Kong||8||South Korea||Japan||Hong Kong|
|1990||Colombo||8||South Korea||Japan||Hong Kong|
|1992||Hong Kong||8||Japan||Hong Kong||South Korea|
|1994||Kuala Lumpur||8||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|1996||Taipei||7||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|1998||Singapore||10||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|2000||Aomori||8||Japan||South Korea||Chinese Taipei|
|2002||Bangkok||11||South Korea||Japan||Hong Kong|
|2004||Hong Kong||12||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|2006||Hong Kong||3||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|2008||single round-robin||5||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|2009||single round-robin||5||Japan||Kazakhstan||South Korea|
|2010||home or away||5||Japan||Kazakhstan||Hong Kong|
|2011||home and away||5||Japan||Hong Kong||United Arab Emirates|
|2012||home and away||5||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|2013||home and away||5||Japan||South Korea||Hong Kong|
|2014||home and away||5||Japan||Hong Kong||South Korea|
|2015||home and away||3||Japan||Hong Kong||South Korea|
|2016||home and away||3||Japan||Hong Kong||South Korea|
|2017||home and away||3||Japan||Hong Kong||South Korea|
|2018||home and away||3||Hong Kong||South Korea||Malaysia|
|2019||home and away||3||Hong Kong||South Korea||Malaysia|