Nepali Times Asian Paints
Scrum run


Every Saturday morning, they gather at Lajimpat. Forty people from the City Gym and their friends have been doing this for the last six weeks, heading for three-hour practice rugby games at Baluwatar. Similar to its American version, rugby is beginning to gather some interest in Kathmandu.

It's not just Nepal, rugby hasn't caught on in South Asia the home of other contact sports like kabbadi and wrestling. The 'Rugby Academy' as City Gym also calls itself, is focusing on its first demonstration match. It was offered the Dasrat Stadium but due to construction work and ground maintenance in preparation for an international football tournament, the area allowed wasn't enough.

It took quite a bit of searching before they found a piece of playground for practice sessions behind the prime minister's quarters. Tundikhel would have been ideal but the bits of glass and garbage would have made it difficult to make touchdowns. Lainchor's grassy knoll wasn't big enough. "We do a lot of warm-ups, run around in circles, exercises designed for rugby," says Craig Young, a Scotsman who teaches English in a Maitidebi school. Back in Edinburgh, he played rugby and during the eight months he's been in Kathmandu, he's been trying to get enthusiasts together. Some had played rugby before, others were just curious.

Few know that Nepal had a Rugby Association under the chairmanship of Siddhi Shamsher Rana . Besides a few random games there hasn't been much going on in the rugby department. Says Ramesh Khanal, chief of the Sports Development Division at the Sports Council: "Rugby was not a priority game and so not much has been going on."

Since there aren't too many players and a game needs 15 players on each side, the match will be held between the members of the new club. Made up of expatriates, some British Gurkhas and young Nepalis, they hope to develop it as a serious sport and introduce it to schools also. "It's interesting and enjoyable," says Mahesh Manandhar, an 18-year-old who has been practicing every weekend. "You do get a few scrapes and bruises but its not so bad. I usually take the ball and run."

Trying to teach the game the first time was confusing says Craig Young, because in rugby you pass the ball backwards not forwards. "But even those who had never played before are pretty good now, they picked it up surprisingly quick," he says. Unlike popular opinion, rugby has fewer injuries and because the players expect contact and to get hit, its not so bad.

Through word-of-mouth, the Rugby Academy has had a lot of people turn up but only some have become regulars. Their idea is to take amateur rugby forward and keep it going in Nepal. Those interested can watch their demonstration match this Saturday afternoon.

Contact: [email protected], Gopal Chhetri at 4411259

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)