Women’s rugby: Lahore witnesses inaugural national championship

Four teams progress to quarter-finals after fighting it out in pool matches

According to Khwaja, the event is the first step intended to convince the women of the country that rugby as a sport can be pursued professionally. PHOTO: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The inaugural Mera Passion National Women 7s Rugby Championship kicked off on Saturday at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore with 12 teams in action.

The teams were divided into four groups, with the top team from each pool progressing to the quarter-finals on day one.

Although Lodhran Spartans and Lodhran Chakhimta Shah crashed out of the tournament, Pakistan Rugby Union (PRU) coach Hassan Shah believes that female athletes finally got a taste of competing at a higher level than their usual low-key events.

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“So far, all players were just training or playing in their towns or villages,” Shah told The Express Tribune. “This was the first time they got the opportunity to compete like this and it will only help them improve.”

Talking about the players’ skills, the coach said some regional teams still need to improve technically. “However, there were a few players who performed well and their speed and fitness was impressive, therefore they will be chosen for the national team as well,” added Shah.

After the pool matches, Samundari Crabs and Sports Sciences Rugby Club reached the quarter-finals from Group A, Rawalpindi Rams and Lahore College progressed from Pool B, Sargodha and Bhagbanpura came forward from Pool C and Lahore Rugby Football Club for Women and Samundari Stars booked their place among the last-eight from Pool D.

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Small step towards international events

According to PRU President Fawzi Khwaja, the event is the first step intended to convince the women of the country that rugby as a sport can be pursued professionally.

He further said that while Pakistan needs at least two to three years to compete with the third-tier teams in Asia, the PRU will try to send the national team to at least one Asian event next year.

“Most of our players begin late, therefore their fitness usually isn’t at par,” said Khwaja. “This championship will encourage women and will hopefully attract notice in the right quarters so that rugby can become a regular fixture in schools’ sporting events.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2015.

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