Women get their chance in Sevens

Updated: 2011-09-27 07:47

By Tym Glaser (China Daily)

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A bold experiment that was started at last year's Borneo Sevens rugby tournament could lead to a major boost for Asian and Pacific women's teams.

In 2010, four women's teams from the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) were invited to compete against four Asian Rugby Union (ARU) sides in a unique Asia Pacific Women's Sevens tournament.

It was so successful and popular with players and fans that its second instalment was held at the Borneo Sevens again this year, and the International Rugby Board's (IRB) operations manager for the Oceania region, Michael Groom, said he can only see it growing.

"It all started with a discussion paper that FORU put together, and it was based on a men's and women's concept and that paper was sent to Jarrad Gallagher, the IRB's Asia regional manager, who floated the idea with the ARFU," said Groom.

"The idea of the men's and women's tournaments was probably too big to digest. So we decided on just having a women's event here last year and that was very successful," he said during a break in action at the HSBC ARFU Asian Rugby Sevens Series event.

"This year it has definitely gathered momentum and gone up a notch."

Asian sides China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore took on Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands participated in a keenly-fought competition that saw Asian Sevens powerhouse China fall to a talented PNG side, 24-10, in Sunday's final at Likas Stadium.

"I think China is outstanding the team's skill level is very good, and its match management and organization is great," Groom, an Australian, said. "There's definitely a plan when they play. On the other hand, Papua New Guinea isn't anywhere near as well organized and just sort of feels its way in the match, but it's mutually beneficial to both regions as the best teams can gauge themselves against different opposition. It just augurs well for the development of the women's game.

"We are now going to see how we can progress it further. The Sabah Rugby Union has told me informally that it would be happy to host an expanded tournament maybe six and six. That would make sense as there will be 12 teams at the Olympics in 2016 and they could get used to the 12-team tournament format," he said.