POSTED: September 10th 2008

Asia opens up to rugby sevens

Liu Yan with IRB president Bernard Lapasset
Liu Yan with IRB president Bernard Lapasset

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

BEIJING: One sector of Chinese sport is still in Olympic pursuit– helping to raise rugby union’s profile in the sport’s bid for the sevens version to gain entry into the Games in 2016.

Rugby and six other sports are chasing two slots. Competitors are baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, softball and squash. The International Olympic Committee will make its decision in Copenhagen in October next year.

In rugby’s cause, China’s women's sevens team has been in intensive training for the past three months ahead of the Asian championships in Hong Kong in October. This event which serves also as a qualifier for next year's showpiece World Cup Sevens women's tournament in Dubai.

Captain Liu Yan said: “We have been training very hard in Beijing, Qinhuangdao and Guangzhou for the past three months with two goals in mind - qualifying for next year's World Cup Sevens in Dubai and building a strong team for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.”

Liu Yan, a 22-year-old from Shandong in Eastern China, has been playing the sport for four years. She said: “Rugby is good for building character and personality.”

She hopes the message will be appreciated by the IOC membership, many of whom had the opportunity in Beijing of discussing rugby’s candidacy with Bernard Lapasset, president of the International Rugby Board, who was ever-present.

China's men came third in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and want to reach the gold medal match in 2010.

CRU secretary-general Liu Rongyao says that is not an impossible aim. He said: “We are very competitive in Asia. We were the Asian champions in 2006. Rugby Sevens is very suitable for Chinese people. If we do well and make it to the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai and get gold at the Asian Games in 2010 Rugby could really take off in China."

The publicity would help Lapasset in his campaign to convince the IOC that rugby is worldwide game and not restricted to the eight major European and southern hemisphere nations.

Keywords · Liu Rongyao · rugby union · sevens · liu yan · bernard lapasset

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