by sportswriter Lu Yuchen
ZENGCHENG, China, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- China shall be confident but keep working hard, said International Rugby Board (IRB) Regional General Manager Jarrad Gallagher here on Saturday.
Rugby was introduced in China since 1990 by Chinese Rugby team head coach Zhang Hongjun and his colleagues. Gallagher witnessed the whole development of women's rugby in China, which established its first women's team in 2004.
"(Chinese women's team) They improved all-around since the beginning," said Gallagher after the opening ceremony of 2012 Women's International Rugby Sevens Tournament in Zengcheng, South China.
After eight years' process, Chinese women's team currently ranks number one in Asia, placing ninth in 2009 Dubai Women's Sevens World Cup. In the same year, the International Olympic Committee listed British-style rugby sevens as a formal event in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
"We are still developing here (in China)," said Gallagher, "Next National Games in Liaoning 2013 will be the first edition with rugby sevens identified as a formal event. Now there're about 13 or 14 provinces in China have teams in the tournament, with more professional players and coaches. That's exciting and good for us."
According to Gallagher, the IRB's future plan on promoting rugby in China will involve holding more international events, introducing rugby to schools to capture young generation, and developing rugby with key cities like in Zengcheng.
"That's our focus and producing a pass-way for top teams to win gold in Rio 2016," said Gallagher.
2012 Women's International Rugby Sevens Tournament will be held from October 27 to 28. As one of the highest-level international women's rugby sevens events held in China, the tournament attracted the United States, South Africa, Singapore Select, Kazakhstan, Thailand, the Philippines to compete here against the host China.
Located in central Guangdong Province, Zengcheng eyes for adding rugby into its name card along with litchi and jeans. With a forest coverage rate of 55.38% and a year-round air excellence rate of 100%, the city is renowned as the oasis in the Pearl River Delta.
"Zengcheng has unique advantages to promote the rugby sport. We are planning and constructing the national level rugby training base, striving for to be 'The City of Rugby' in China, also providing the best competitive and communication platform to the world," said Cao Jianliao, Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Zengcheng Municipal Committee.