Rugby: Indian fans, players catch on to sevens

By Dylan Cleaver

Hosea Gear beats the despairing dive of his Canadian opponent in New Zealand's first-round match, which the Kiwis won 43-7 yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Hosea Gear beats the despairing dive of his Canadian opponent in New Zealand's first-round match, which the Kiwis won 43-7 yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs

About the only thing that stopped this from looking like a scene out of any rugby country in the world was the hundreds of kites - of the avian variety - circling overhead, waiting for the players to move so they could swoop on the insects.

"I was looking out there before the game and there are some big suckers, aye," said New Zealand's first try-scorer of the tournament Kurt Baker.

Menacing birds aside, the venue is an oasis. Tucked away in leafy Delhi University, it is a world away from the hubbub of the city.

There was some concern on Thursday when the electronic scoreboard came loose and smashed to the ground. It was fixed "with typical Swiss efficiency", according to a release.

Read into that what you will.

The facility is otherwise excellent, the surface near perfect and the stands were filling by the hour - could sevens emerge as one of the unlikely stars of the games?

Unlikely because India and rugby are as closely aligned as New Zealand and kabbadi.

Thatmay be about to change and sevens will inevitably be the vehicle.

"In the past two or three years, the number of clubs has doubled," said India captain Nasser Hussain. "We've got close to 8000 players, around 60 to 80 clubs. It's not restricted to the metros anymore, it's gone rural.

"It's all showing that the sport is growing."

The locals seemed fascinated, cheering every tackle made - and to be fair, they didn't make many stick - like it was the winning try.

The Delhi Police Anti-Sabotage Unit thought it was a great lark, en masse taking a well-earned break from foiling sabotage to watch.

India are still no match for the big nations, as was demonstrated by the 56-7 thrashing they received from Wales in their opening match. They have a smattering of raw talent but little size.

"We had to teach them what to eat," said their Fijian coach Usaia Biumaiwai. "They must eat four meals a day. They are always asking how come I am so much bigger, why Fijians are bigger. I tell them it's because of different diets."

Hussain believed that, regardless of the results, the exposure the sport gets from the Commonwealth Games will boost the sport and take it to new areas of the country.

It would be a stretch to call New Zealand's start fantastic, but despite spending some of the second spell with only five players, they eased to a 43-7 win over Canada and later thrashed Guyana 52-0.

"As a team I thought we played pretty well but we let it go a bit in that last three or four minutes. Overall, we were pretty clinical," said Baker.

- NZ Herald

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