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Rugby in China

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Rugby in China

Postby Horsehead » Wed, 11 Mar 2015, 10:41

I remember reading an article (In Rugby World I think) probably about 15-20 years ago now about how Rugby was being adopted by the Chinese army and that China were predicted to become the next great power in world rugby. I believe their initial results were promising but this just seems to have fizzled out. Does anyone else recall this and know what has happened?

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby RugInt » Wed, 11 Mar 2015, 11:36

China did do well initially in international competition in 2000s, then focused on 7's (when it was known that it was going to be an Olympic Sport) and their test side slipped two divisions. They made a big comeback in 15s 2014 defeating Indonesia 10-6, and then Guam 41-10 in the final, to take Asia Nations Div.3 East. With the revamped 2015 Asia Rugby Championship they remained in Div.3 East with Indonesia and Guam again, with Laos dropping to Division 4.

I don't know why the sudden return to focus on 15's but going back a couple of seasons China was getting trashed in Asia test rugby.

Annoyingly for China, Chinese Taipei plays in Division 2

Check China's test rugby results at www.rugbyinternational.net.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Rowan » Wed, 11 Mar 2015, 12:35

Rugby was actually banned in China under Mao but started to make headway in the 1990s due to the efforts of expats, and also the relative popularity of the sport in both Hong Kong and Macau. It was adopted by the military - leading to claims that 3 million players were thus involved and China had become the biggest rugby playing nation in the world. In reality, registered playing numbers increased from 30 to 1000 in the early 90s alone, and were last estimated at 6000 in 1997. In the early 2000s China was probably the 4th best team in Asia for a while, behind China, Hong Kong and Korea, and was even invited to compete in the Super Powers Cup with Russia, USA and Japan(??) but had to withdraw due to the SARS scare. Actually, that was a pathetic excuse. I was in China during the so-called SARS scare and the country was totally uneffected. True, some 800 people were supposed to have died from that particular respitory disease, but that's in a nation of 1.3 billion people which has a daily road toll of about 300. So undoubtedly they knew China wasn't really up to it. Indeed, their form declined rapidly earlier this decade, the nadir undoubtedly being a 94-0 loss to India - a team they had posted 50 points against several years earlier. Two reasons are given for this. Rugby's inclusion on the Olympic program has shifted the focus to 7s, and China for a time fielded two separate national teams, one drawn from the army, the other comprised of civilians, with the latter apparently more active. But over the last few years the national teams have combined again, and something of a recovery has been made.
If they're good enough to play at World Cups, then why not in between?

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby HMFCalltheway » Wed, 11 Mar 2015, 12:55

The Chinese agricultural university seems to be a real hub for the game in China outside the expat circles. They seem to take it fairly seriously and I remember 5 or more years ago their team actually managed to beat Scotland at the HK sevens (it was seen as a major embarassment here).

Just looked them up again on the internet as that Scottish defeat is the only thing I really knew about them and according to this article their team was "professional" at least for a time. Does anyone know more about this and the supposed level of professionalism.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Horsehead » Wed, 11 Mar 2015, 13:00

Thanks for the updates folks

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby NedRugby » Wed, 11 Mar 2015, 15:48

Horsehead wrote:I remember reading an article (In Rugby World I think) probably about 15-20 years ago now about how Rugby was being adopted by the Chinese army and that China were predicted to become the next great power in world rugby. I believe their initial results were promising but this just seems to have fizzled out. Does anyone else recall this and know what has happened?


Yes. I remember this and might be able to dig up a hard copy of the article in a couple of days.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby NedRugby » Thu, 12 Mar 2015, 22:11

Couldn't find it.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby WuhanClan » Sat, 04 Jul 2015, 14:24

I live and play rugby in China, so if anyone has any questions then let me know. It's a bit hard to find info on what's going on here, even when you're living here...

The focus is still on 7s with XVs just been done to satisfy World Rugby (as far as I can see). Maybe the Agricultural University's in Beijing and Guangzhou (possibly other universities too), the People's Liberation Army (play in the Hong Kong leagues) and Shandong province being the exception to this.

From what I can see, women's rugby is getting more attention from the provincial sport's bureaus. When you look at the national 7s competitions (held roughly every month or so from March to August), there's usually 1 or 2 more provincial/municipal women's teams than men's (although the men have the army team too). Some of the these teams are actually professional and funded by the local sport's bureaus.

These were the teams in the last national 7s competition held last weekend in Tianjin.
Men: PLA, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Anhui, Hebei, Inner Mongolia
Women: Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Sichuan, Tianjin, Inner Mongolia

These were the teams in the one before in Hainan
Men: PLA, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Anhui, Hebei, Shanxi
Women: Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Sichuan, Shanxi, Beijing

Overall, Shandong are the best province and are putting a good development system together in comparison with other provinces (but they're generally the best at sport overall in China). Men's teams doing well are Shandong, the PLA, Beijing and Tianjin. For the women it's usually Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong at the top.

Then there's the growing expat population starting teams (18 now I think?), but at the moment it's quite distinct from the Chinese teams (although hopefully it will become less divided in the future....). The other problem with these is the distances between the teams and many teams having lots of students (not much money) and not really knowing how best to organise here.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Rowan » Sat, 04 Jul 2015, 18:34

Welcome aboard, Wuhanclan. From where are you originally, might I inquire? I once lived in Shanghai myself. Nice place, nice folks, pretty much about as close to living on another planet as you'd ever be (apart from if you did actually live on another planet, of course). Hairy Crabs still going strong?
If they're good enough to play at World Cups, then why not in between?

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby WuhanClan » Sat, 04 Jul 2015, 23:00

I'm originally from England.

Shanghai have evolved slightly. They've gone back to their roots and call themselves Shanghai Rugby Football Club, with the 'performance' team called something like 'Silver Dragons'. Think the more social sides are still Hairy Crabs, but the name may well not be used at all now.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby victorsra » Sat, 04 Jul 2015, 23:03

The focus is still on 7s with XVs just been done to satisfy World Rugby (as far as I can see). Maybe the Agricultural University's in Beijing and Guangzhou (possibly other universities too), the People's Liberation Army (play in the Hong Kong leagues) and Shandong province being the exception to this.


Hi WuhanClan,

So there are no XV-a-side competitions?
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Re: Rugby in China

Postby jservuk » Sat, 04 Jul 2015, 23:09

I might be wrong, but isn't it odd how China and Japan have had zero impact on the big international sports? Not just Rugby, but Football and others too.

Even India/Pakistan etc have had world/Olympic championship status in cricket, hockey, squash.

Perhaps there is something in the cultural psyche here, somewhat insular, inward looking, traditional. I don't doubt their physical prowess.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Coloradoan » Sat, 04 Jul 2015, 23:21

jservuk wrote:I might be wrong, but isn't it odd how China and Japan have had zero impact on the big international sports? Not just Rugby, but Football and others too.

Even India/Pakistan etc have had world/Olympic championship status in cricket, hockey, squash.

Perhaps there is something in the cultural psyche here, somewhat insular, inward looking, traditional. I don't doubt their physical prowess.


I'd disagree with regard to Japan. They have had a major impact on baseball, both at club level and international level. Baseball's international game isn't developed to the level of many sports, but there are probably around as many countries (USA, Japan, Korea, Canada, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Taiwan, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua plus Curacao and maybe a couple other similarly small Caribbean island nations) that take it seriously as cricket or rugby.

China tend to be a lot better at individual sports than team sports for some reason.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby fullbackace » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 05:23

jservuk wrote:I might be wrong, but isn't it odd how China and Japan have had zero impact on the big international sports? Not just Rugby, but Football and others too.

Even India/Pakistan etc have had world/Olympic championship status in cricket, hockey, squash.

Perhaps there is something in the cultural psyche here, somewhat insular, inward looking, traditional. I don't doubt their physical prowess.

One Word... Judo.

China ? hmm I'm not sure about China.. They did win the Olympics.
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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Rowan » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 06:17

Yes, I certainly wouldn't say "zero" impact. Japan's football team has been fairly competitive over the last couple of decades, regularly qualifying for the World Cup and reaching the second round in 2002.

But I would agree that China remains very insular. & competitive sports are not really a part of their culture. The Olympics is changing that, however, as a never-ending battle of the egoes among the super powers.
If they're good enough to play at World Cups, then why not in between?

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby WuhanClan » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 10:21

victorsra wrote:
The focus is still on 7s with XVs just been done to satisfy World Rugby (as far as I can see). Maybe the Agricultural University's in Beijing and Guangzhou (possibly other universities too), the People's Liberation Army (play in the Hong Kong leagues) and Shandong province being the exception to this.


Hi WuhanClan,

So there are no XV-a-side competitions?


There are, but not as many as 7s for actual Chinese teams (university or provinces, not foreigner dominated teams). I've seen the fixture schedule and it seems they do more of a national XVs tournament type thing over a few days. I know the Agricultural University in Beijing play again the other Beijing teams in a league (all 3 other Beijing teams being mostly foreigners). Also the PLA play in the Hong Kong XVs league and the Agricultural University in Guangzhou go to Hong Kong to play (so I've heard from an ex-player).

There is also a XVs league that most foreign teams take part in, but it's not exactly organised well due to geographical and therefore financial difficulties. This actually does have a club side made up almost entirely of Chinese, Fuzhou, who seem to break the model slightly for Chinese people playing rugby in China, in that it's not controlled by the local government and they don't play 7s.

My team actually mostly plays 10s. The league has developed over the last few seasons, so now it has 6 core teams (including a Chinese university team starting this season) and on each match day, we have guest teams. It's organised a bit like the World 7s series, I suppose.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby WuhanClan » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 10:30

jservuk wrote:I might be wrong, but isn't it odd how China and Japan have had zero impact on the big international sports? Not just Rugby, but Football and others too.

Even India/Pakistan etc have had world/Olympic championship status in cricket, hockey, squash.

Perhaps there is something in the cultural psyche here, somewhat insular, inward looking, traditional. I don't doubt their physical prowess.


It's because of the way sports are played here. There aren't many 'club' sides for kids to join for any major sports. Even though basketball and football are huge here, kids only either play it at school or in a local park with friends, or parents have to pay for coaching for kids, with no real competitive outlet (by that I mean, they don't get to play other teams). It does differ around the country and some places will have a chance to join a team for certain sports in certain areas, but I just don't see it. There are several reasons for this including kids having pressure to study more than other places and also lack of facilities.

This is OK for individual sports. So for table tennis, badminton, tennis, taekwondo or whatever, the system produces athletes because they're easier to organise and don't need as many particpants, require less space and less money. Now China is chasing gold medals, it's a lot more cost effective to spend money on these.

However, because the current president is a football fan, there is a big push to promote football in schools. I'm skeptical, so I'll sit back and see how it goes...

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Rowan » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 18:19

7s might catch on in China then, now it's an Olympic sport. Do you sense that might damage the status of the fledgling XVs circuit at all? I have serious doubts as to whether the aggressive, brute-force nature of forward play would ever particularly appeal to the Chinese psyche, although I understand it became quite popular in the army for precisely those qualities. Do you happen to know if the national XVs team remains army-dominated?
If they're good enough to play at World Cups, then why not in between?

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby NedRugby » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 21:50

The Chinese womens team have been perenniel strugglers in the WSWS. Even after it became n Olympic sport they showed no improvement.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby WuhanClan » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 23:45

Rowan wrote:7s might catch on in China then, now it's an Olympic sport. Do you sense that might damage the status of the fledgling XVs circuit at all? I have serious doubts as to whether the aggressive, brute-force nature of forward play would ever particularly appeal to the Chinese psyche, although I understand it became quite popular in the army for precisely those qualities. Do you happen to know if the national XVs team remains army-dominated?


I've basically accepted that 7s is the only way forward in China, not just because of the Olympics but because of Chinese culture. The physical aspect of rugby puts too many people off it as they see it as 'violent'. I'm actually coaching kid's tag rugby where I live (had over 200 kids attending weekly coaching this last semester), but when the kid's and their parents have seen my team's matches, they're generally a bit shocked at the level of physicality (although my team has a lot of Samoans :lol: ).

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby WuhanClan » Sun, 05 Jul 2015, 23:47

NedRugby wrote:The Chinese womens team have been perenniel strugglers in the WSWS. Even after it became n Olympic sport they showed no improvement.


Yes, but they're still the best team in Asia at the moment and even though progress is slow, this is where we will see Chinese rugby improve the most, in the women's game.

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby victorsra » Mon, 06 Jul 2015, 01:04

Yes, I certainly wouldn't say "zero" impact. Japan's football team has been fairly competitive over the last couple of decades, regularly qualifying for the World Cup and reaching the second round in 2002.


Don't forget women's football. Once champions and once runners-up. And China has also strong history in women's football.
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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Canalina » Mon, 06 Jul 2015, 05:10

A nice little report of the Mongolia's trip to China for the first Kublai Khan Cup (I really hope this trophy will go ahead in the next years)


and the complete match https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTu5veSC4Ng

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Rowan » Mon, 06 Jul 2015, 06:49

Am I missing something here, or isn't naming a trophy for competition between Mongolia and China after Kublai Khan a little like naming a trophy for competition between France and England after William the Conqueror ??

Mind you, the Cook Cup is the same sort of thing. Hugely arrogant to commandeer the explorer's name to provide an image of historical magnitude to a sports competition, highly insensitive toward the native community, bears no relevance whatsoever, and ignores all the dedicated, hard-working members of the rugby community among whom a more fitting candidate could certainly have been found.
If they're good enough to play at World Cups, then why not in between?

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Re: Rugby in China

Postby Figaro » Mon, 06 Jul 2015, 08:50

China tend to be a lot better at individual sports than team sports for some reason.


I think that, as WuhanClan suggests, this has something to do with the Olympics. To win golds at the olympics, it's much more cost effective to train one swimmer/weightlifter/shooter, who can go on to compete in a large number of events on her/his own, than to train up a whole e.g. football squad, who can only compete for one medal but still cost 15x as much. It's a no-brainer if the only objective is winning as many medals as possible.

That said, I suspect there may be other cultural factors at work. The Chinese people I have met have suggested to me that most Chinese parents will pressure their children to achieve more academically, perhaps seeing sports as a distraction (except maybe where olympic funding allows one to make a real career out of it). The stereotype of the overbearing Chinese mother and all that. Maybe the idea that Rugby is violent and/or dangerous plays a role as well.

isn't naming a trophy for competition between Mongolia and China after Kublai Khan a little like naming a trophy for competition between France and England after William the Conqueror ??


I was reading about the Mongols recently, and it turns out China's relationship with Kublai (in particular) is really complex and interesting. He's considered to be the founder of the Yuan dynasty, who despite being essentially the Mongol rulers of China and for the most part never bothering to learn Chinese are still considered bona fide Chinese emperors (rather like William the Conqueror actually). He was the first person to rule southern China (the "core" of the historical Chinese civilization), Manchuria and Tibet at the same time, so the present-day borders of China actually owe much to him and he has been argued to have been the founder of the modern Chinese state, fulfilling a similar role to e.g. Ataturk/Bismarck/Garibaldi in other cultures. He's actually revered as a hero by many Chinese.

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