Aeng Khang understood at an early age that playing any sport, much less one as raucous as rugby, would be nearly impossible for girls from her remote village in Laos. As teenagers, many would be expected to marry and leave school to work on the family farm.

"If you went to play sports, they'd say, 'That's a girl who wants to be a boy' or 'That's a bad person,'" said Khang, 22, who left school at age 13 to help her parents on their farm so they could finance her older brother's college education.

Khang took up rugby anyway, as