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China Daily Website

Schools to give rugby a try, amid protest

Updated: 2012-06-05 02:23
By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei in Nanjing ( China Daily)

Thirty elementary schools in East China will get the ball bouncing soon on a new rugby program designed to boost the game and the health of students.

The schools in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, will begin teaching the sport in September.

"It aims to promote rugby in China, since the second Youth Olympic Games will be held in Nanjing in 2014," said Niu Yong, director of the Nanjing sports bureau's football management center.

Niu said that the International Rugby Board and the Nanjing government developed the plan at the beginning of the year.

China's first national youth rugby team was established in Nanjing in May 2012.

While popular in some countries like the UK and Australia, rugby is not familiar to many Chinese people.

So the new program has aroused heated discussion among Chinese teachers and parents.

"Rugby involves too much physical contact. It may cause injuries to children, especially to those little ones," said Yu Zhenlin, a Nanjing resident who had worked as a teacher for more than 26 years.

"Chinese children need to improve their fitness before they participate in such a competitive sport. Some children even fainted after standing for minutes in assembly," Yu said on the Internet.

"It's good to bring rugby to China, but as the old Chinese saying goes, one cannot become a fat person with one bite."

Yu suggested that a pilot program should be carried out in one or two schools that are well equipped, before it is applied to 30 schools.

"I don't want my daughter to join a rugby team because I think other sports, such as badminton and running, can also improve fitness and avoid serious risk at the same time," said Lin Ju, the mother of a 9-year-old in Nanjing.

Zhong Shurong, an elementary school teacher in Nanjing's Qinhuai district, said that she strongly welcomes rugby entering Chinese schools.

"Children cannot be flowers in a greenhouse," said Zhong. "It would be cowardly not to introduce competitive sports to schools just to avoid potential physical harm."

"Many Chinese boys lack masculinity because they don't engage in physical exercise," said Niu. "No sports can avoid competition and guarantee safety entirely." He added that the kind of rugby introduced to the city is of the mild kind.

"Players will stop moving forward when they are touched by members of the other team. It is not dangerous even for little Grade 1 children."

"Promoting rugby in China needs support from the International Rugby Board, in terms of equipment, coaches' training and the organization of important events," said Niu.