A research by the renowned global information and data agency Nielsen shows that there are around 25.7 million Rugby fans in India. The analysis further reveals that India is the third largest in the world in terms of supporters of this beautiful game. In the last two years there has been an upright growth and development of Rugby across India. The nation is now ranked first in Asia and third in the world in terms of participation numbers through World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby programme. It has reached to over 1,60,000 participants, with 40 per cent female participation in 2017.
Noticing this growth in India, the World Federation had chosen India as one of their destinations for the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour in the lead up to Japan 2019. Along with India, the Webb Ellis Cup (the World Cup as it is known as) will also visit Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Nepal and Chile for the first time. In total there are 18 nations where the Cup will travel.
Sports Minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, launched the Trophy Tour in India, welcoming the Webb Ellis Cup to Delhi. “We are delighted to welcome the Webb Ellis Cup to India as the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2019 gets underway. We are happy to see India included within the 18 nations that will be visited by the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour,” addressed Rathore in the presence of World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper, Asia Rugby President Aga Hussain and Rugby India President Numazar Mehta.
The sport that was once confined to Indian elites in the Gymkhanas of Mumbai and Clubs of Kolkata, has managed to expand its base to smaller towns and rural areas of India. Rugby is now a core sport in the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) for the U-14, U-17 and U-19 boys and girls categories. It is also part of AIU’s National University Games calendar. Elated by this rapid growth of Rugby in India, Brett Gosper said “As rugby continues its unprecedented global growth, with 9.1 million men, women and children playing the sport in 2017, we want to inspire and engage Rugby fans and players in India using the excitement of the Webb Ellis Cup and sharing the values and passion of Rugby. We are delighted to see Rugby become a core sport in national schools and universities and look forward to working with the authorities and our partners to continue to grow the game throughout India.”
The event in Delhi was hosted by former Indian Rugby player and film actor Rahul Bose. With the excitement of seeing Rugby’s greatest prize in India, Bose conferred, “Rugby has grown beyond Rahul Bose. It is a sport that has now been picked and accepted by the common man.”
The Trophy Tour that aimed to engage and excite new and existing Rugby fans, had its next stops at Mumbai and Bhubaneshwar. The national governing body not only supported the Tour, but also used it as an opportunity to reach out to 50,000 new Rugby participants. All Rugby India affiliated State Associations, Zonal Associations, District Associations, clubs, schools, universities, colleges, communities, corporate and volunteers were involved to make it India’s biggest Get Into Rugby activation to date.
This is for the first time the Rugby World Cup is to take place in an Asian country. Speaking on that Brett Gosper said, “Japan 2019 marks the first time the world’s third largest sports event will be hosted in Asia and every effort is being made to maximise this opportunity to grow the sport in the region. Project Asia 1 Million, part of the Impact Beyond legacy programme which set a target of attracting one million new Rugby participants by 2020, is making very strong progress with over 5,00,000 new participants involved already.”