Rahul Bose: Japan an inspiration for rugby in Asia

India can also master a sport that is now being widely played in Asia, implies the former rugby player.

Aiming for new heights: Rahul Bose (right) with World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper at the Bombay Gymkhana.   -  PTI

Japan’s enterprise and efforts that enable it to excel in rugby should serve as an inspiration to India, according to former rugby player Rahul Bose.

Speaking on the sidelines of Rugby World Cup tour to India, Bose asserted: “Japan offers inspiration to us. Genetically, they are not huge but beat South Africa and New Zealand. The way they did it, the processes used to become better should inspire all of Asia.” He added, “Japan has one of the finest leagues happening in the rugby world, the best pros compete there due to the money, the organisation and attention to detail.”

Japan, which is set to host the Rugby World Cup next year, is ranked 11th among 105 nations in the World Rugby list among men, and has shown it can unsettle the top teams — it surprised New Zealand at the Olympics in 2016, and had stunned South Africa at the World Cup in 2015.

‘No more the colonial sport’

The 2019 edition of the World Cup will be the first time the event will be held in Asia, and away from Europe, Oceania or Africa. “Rugby feels closer to home because of Japan getting the honour to host it. Rugby is no more the the colonial sport played by England, five nations there and South Africa,” pointed out Bose, who is an actor and activist after retirement from the sport, in a chat at Bombay Gymkhana where the Webb Ellis Cup was on display.

Read: Rugby has a future in India, says World Rugby CEO

Bose is planning to watch the World Cup live and feels that Japan’s success in hosting a competition of this magnitude will set off opportunities for players across Asia. “Rugby is now become our sport, it is played in Japan, China, Korea for example, which makes it easier for the public to accept it as their own and feel that if Japan, China, Korea play it, why not India.”

The emerging market

India is rated as one of the emerging markets for the sport, with a worldwide following of 793 million and 338 million fans (according to a Nielsen Sport research across 36 nations done in 2017).

Rio Olympics saw rugby, which traditionally had 15 players competing for each side, make a debut in the Sevens format (seven players each side). Japan finished fourth in men’s category at the Olympics (behind Fiji, England, South Africa) and is poised to upset established rugby nations in the men's category when it hosts the Tokyo Olympics at home.

Both formats of rugby are played in India. The national governing body, Rugby India, attempts to spread the sport across States like Odisha, the next stop for the Webb Ellis Cup at Bhubaneshwar.

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