Twelve players of the Nepal Rugby Sevens are facing Bangladesh, UAE and India at the Asia Rugby Development Sevens in Chennai on 7-8 March.
This week, despite the rain the team has been training hard. Coach Govinda Ghimire says he isn’t sure about their chances at the Asia Rugby Development Sevens, but says the team will give their best shot.
Team manager Tanka Raj Giri is more concerned with the condition of his players when they reach Chennai. “We have to travel three days by road,” he says, “and we only have one day break when we arrive.”
The Nepal Rugby Association (NRA) was established in 1992 and registered at the National Sports Council in 1995. It’s only in 2012 that Tanka Giri, a travel professional from Jumla, gave the sport a real kick-start in Nepal.
“I discovered rugby when I joined England’s Aldershot and Fleet RUFC in 2002,” recalls Giri. “When I came back home, I wanted to create a team here.” He got together with Tanka Lal Ghising and Chetan Giri, and set up NRA.
Tanka Giri preferred starting with the seven-a-side rugby. “This format is the best to begin,” he says. “There are less tackles and therefore we have less injuries.”
It took time for rugby to catch on in Nepal. “We got a few people together from all over Nepal,” he recalls, they created clubs in their respective districts. This rapid enthusiasm enabled the NRA to organise its first national tournament last January.
“With five teams from different regions of Nepal, the January tournament was the opportunity to select our players for the Asia Rugby Development Sevens,” says Raj Giri.
The NRA was affiliated with the Asian Rugby Union last year. “That was a big step for us,” says coach Ghimire. “We are now allowed to compete in international tournaments.”
In November 2014, the team went to New Delhi for a series of friendly matches against Delhi Hurricanes at the All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament. “We won one of our three matches,” says the Nepal captain, Navin Giri, “it was good experience to play with an international team.
The players are also showing much more confidence. “We know how good we are and I believe we can win,” says team member Rabin Bhujel. Nepal is currently in the ‘Development category’ and if they win this tournament in Chennai, it will reach the professional group of Asia Rugby Sevens.
NRA has plans to evolve the team and to make rugby more popular in Nepal. “We’ll take the opportunity of the World Cup next September to organise campaigns to recruit new players,” says Tanka Giri. “Maybe we’ll be able to reinforce our women’s team after that.”
NRA also wishes to have Nepal’s very own XV Rugby team. “Rugby is still new in the country,” says Navin Giri. “We have to go slowly to reach this next big step.”
Scrum run, Abha Eli Phoboo
Why Nepali football hasn’t kicked off, Elvin L Shrestha
ICC Calling, Sahina Shrestha