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August 2004

Sporting dreams

- by Sunaura

Rugby has taken flight in Auroville

rugby on the beach


Over the last few months, rugby has been a more common topic of conversation than ever before in Auroville. The game which is of course not new to the world, has been inspiring individuals to get together regularly on the hot sands of Auroville's beach, and sweat through a rigorous workout of learning and practicing this ‘hands on' game. “We always talked about rugby without really starting it,” explained Nico who has been playing the game since he was 12 and has lived in Auroville for the past three years with his partner, Jitta, who grew up here, and their two young children. “But it was difficult because we never managed to get balls which are of a very specific kind. Then we got a lead when we were given the card to contact Patrick Davenport, an American who has lived in Chennai for the last eight years and is in charge of all the rugby competitions in South India . We went to one of their fundraising meetings in Chennai and he gave us the boost to get started.”

And so two months ago a determined group (who are now receiving balls from the South Indian Rugby Union), began meeting thrice a week for a two-hour practice. “Pretty soon,” Nico says enthusiastically, “we are going to get some time at the stadium in Pondy. Usually you play rugby on grass. To practice on the sand is good for two reasons: It protects you from getting hurt as there is a lot of tackling in this sport, and it gives your muscles a great workout. If you can run one hour on the sand, it means you can run twice as long on grass.”

Nico, explaining the gameRugby 's introduction to the local area is building momentum as one can see its popularity rising amongst the players as well as the viewers. Yet are there enough dedicated individuals? “In rugby there are fifteen people on the field for each team”, explains Nico. “So, basically you need 30 players to have one team which includes substitutes and everything. At the moment, I think we have around 12 serious players who come regularly for training. We also have some men joining from neighbouring villages like Kalapet. And we have some players from Pondy. I think in the end it won't just be an Auroville team. We need a minimum of 22 players who can always be there. If we manage to get a team here then we can have competitions in Chennai, Bangalore and elsewhere. At the moment, it is not such a common sport here with India ranking around 95 amongst the rugby playing countries in the world. But I think that with India having one billion people, it has the largest potential!”

Last month this newly organized rugby team went to Chennai for their first match and though they did not win, the spirit of the team and enthusiasm for the sport was enhanced. “On the 24th of July, we participated in a five-day tournament in Chennai. It was an All South India tournament and the four best teams will go to Calcutta for the All India Tournament. And out of that they will choose the players for the International team. We did not make it to the top four but placed 8th in South India and are one step further along in experience. Our strong point is that we have six players who have played rugby before in Europe or New Zealand and this is a big advantage compared to the Indian teams because most of them only started two years ago. It was great fun to go to this first match. We rented a bus and the social aspect of rugby was really there with singing and making jokes together. The spirit is not something we are missing. What we need are more players.”

Rugby is a tackling sport and naturally attracts more men then women but the first women's rugby team has started in Chennai recently and the West has a growing popularity for women's rugby. “I think it is less common for women to want to play this sport because of the roughness, possible black eyes and all. But I would really like to get a girls' rugby team started in Auroville and we also want to start a rugby school for children over the age of seven. What is great is that anyone can play rugby. You can be short, tall, fat, or thin. Depending on your physique, you will have a specific position on the field.”

So what are the future goals for Nico and his fellow teammates? “We want to form one team that would include Aurovilians, people from Pondy and the villages around us. And then we want to get a second team in Pondy so we can have matches every weekend.” The team is looking for sponsors so they can get stadium time in Pondy as well as being able to afford needed equipment such as rugby shoes (which cost around 75 Euro), and tackling bags used for training. Having opened an account in Pour Tous, they hope to gain the financial support needed. “My main goal over the next two years,” concludes Nico “is to get one of our players in the National Rugby Team. That would really be an achievement for all of us.”


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