| India captain Chaitanya Sinh (right) and coach Graeme Cooper at a press meet Thursday. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta: The CC&FC will mark a new chapter in the history of Indian rugby Saturday — by hosting the first-ever international match recognised by the International Rugby Board (IRB) in India.
It’s a group B match of the inaugural Asia Region 2003 IRB quadrangular series, featuring India and Chinese Taipei. This meet comes as a precursor to the Asian championship to be held in Hong Kong next year, to help organisers decide the seedings.
Twelve teams have been divided in three groups and the teams in every group play each other once. The competition ends with that and there is no second stage. India have already played two matches, both in Singapore, and lost 0-71 to the hosts and 13-20 to Malyasia.
Chinese Taipei, ranked third in Asia, are the top-seeded team in the group and have beaten Malaysia 54-0 in their only outing so far. India, undoubtedly, are in for a tough time once again.
“That’s not important. The exposure is. We hardly play 15s at the international level. In fact this is just our third tournament after the first one (Asian championship) in 1998,” said India captain Chaitanya Sinh at a media conference Thursday.
India have hired a coach from England, Graeme Cooper of New Castle, for this event and the team has been training under him for four weeks. The coach, according to Indian Rugby Football Union president Pramod Khanna, has worked with the Scotland B team.
“India are still in a stage of development and new to international rugby. I have been working on certain drills, techniques and tactics which are common in Europe but not so in Asia,” said Cooper. “Obviously it’s not possible to change things in four weeks that we have had. Chinese Taipei are a strong side, but we will try to be competitive.”
The team, picked after a 30-day camp in Mumbai has two from the city in the starting line-up — Rayomond Jeejeebhoy and Emil Vartazarian. There is more local face among the reserves — Supratik Sen.
Incidentally, there are three players in the team who are not of Indian origin — Matthew Todd and Andrew Grierson (both originally from England) and Todd Lauchlan (New Zealand).
“International rules permit fielding players from other countries to play for countries in this region if they stay in these countries for three years or more. This is aimed at the development of the game,” explained Sinh.
Sinh informed India were leading 13-3 against Malaysia before losing the match in the last 17 minutes or so, but hastened to add that the performance against Singapore was better. “The scoreline may suggest a completely different story, but we did not do too poorly.”
The Telegraph is one of the sponsors of Saturday’s match.