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Women and odd-shaped balls


Women and odd-shaped balls

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The popularity of rugby skyrockets as more and more girls play at the Bangkok International Sevens

As you pick up this edition of Expat Life, the World Cup will be in full swing. The rugby version, that is, in Japan.

If you are into sport, you may know that already. If not, you just might need to be informed that – behind only the soccer cup and the Olympics – the Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event on the planet, and that the Japanese are quite good at it, demolishing the myth that rugby is only played “by huge men with odd-shaped balls”, as the risqué traditional joke has it. The final is on November 2, giving us a few days to regain our breath before a local version takes place: the 23rd annual Bangkok International Sevens (November 9-10 at the superb Patana School Sports Complex on Soi Lasalle), a less bruising, more laid-back alternative that makes an ideal family weekend outing.

In addition to the men’s tournaments – elite and social – there will be a women’s tournament and sections for under 18 and under 16 boys, the latter reflecting the large number of local and international schools that choose rugby as a sport. Since its launch in 1995 the event has become an established favourite with expats, cheering on their favourites or just soaking up the action, and a large local contingent will also attend, mirroring the rising popularity of rugby in its many forms. The World Cup features 20 of the top countries (pre-event favourites are New Zealand and South Africa) all playing 15 a side, with matches lasting a lung-bursting 80 minutes. Sevens is more spectator-friendly, especially for the non-expert, with matches lasting seven or ten minutes per half, and in Bangkok matches take place on multiple pitches, to enable organisers to complete the large number of round-robin games and also provide the crowd with plenty of quick-fire action.

The Patana complex enables three full pitches plus a practice/warm-up area, so everyone seated in the shade of the main grandstand gets a good view of the action, while immediately behind the stand will be an appetising array of browsing-and-sluicing options for all tastes. Patana’s pitches are the best in SE Asia, without doubt – properly grassed for good traction and with amazingly good drainage. One of a number of formats of rugby (others include 10s and touch, a non-contact version), sevens provides an ideal combination, for both players and spectators, of speed and physicality, ensuring never a dull moment. Sevens has become stunningly successful throughout Asia, with World Series events in Singapore and Japan supplementing the Hong Kong Sevens, the granddaddy of them all, as well as more club and social-oriented events in even the most unlikely places.The Bangkok event has drawn entries from Oceania to Scotland, from the USA to Dubai and South Africa, 24 countries in all, with Thailand a drawcard for its tourist attractions to back up the quality of the rugby on offer. But the real focus remains the SE Asia region.

Tournaments have focused international attention on Thailand as a rugby destination where the fun and excitement of Thai culture mixes with the full-on pace and fast action of sevens rugby. Now, however, the focus is shifting towards a higher level of sevens participation. In this region, Malaysia has the upper hand in rugby at present, its men’s 15 team retaining Asian Division One status and a whopping 27 world ranking places ahead of Thailand, which languishes in Division Two. But a new regime at the Thai Rugby Union is promising to put an end to stories of corruption and cheating that have dogged it for years, and has made a start by taking seriously the qualification (both men and women) for the Olympic Sevens at the Tokyo 2020 Games; those qualifiers will be part of the SEA Games in the Philippines from November 30 and the two squads have been training hard in New Zealand in preparation.


Source: Expat Life Thailand

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