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Cricket-mad India struggles to put together rugby team

Plans to compete in Commonwealth Games

Gulf News

Dubai: In cricket-mad India a lack of support for other sports is a common complaint. But the pack involved with rugby hope to change that as they go along.

It's a tough road strewn with numerous obstacles, but Rugby India is here to stay, and its coaches Hendre Marnitz and Norman Laker, who have the task of shaping an India squad for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, are not about to give up.

Few rugby pitches exist across the country and at the team's base at the Balawadi Sports Complex in Pune, Rugby India's ageing warriors are forced to practice on a patch of grass that is devoid of any markings and more importantly posts.

"There are many issues; where do we start. You can say our main drawback is we don't have a proper pitch with poles. The Balawadi Sports Complex is a huge facility, but it isn't equipped for rugby. India's shooters, wrestlers, hockey players are all based there. There are fields for every sport except rugby, which is a big problem because we're playing on a patch of grass without any lines and poles," Marnitz said.

Infrastructure

Rugby India may lack the sporting infrastructure needed to develop its rugby, but it is not lacking in spirit. It's true that Marnitz, Laker and the rest of Rugby India is swimming against the tide, but their spirit is far from depleted. In fact, the South African coaches are amazed at the work ethic of each and every member of their squad, who arrive for training equipped with the enthusiasm of a novice.

"Most of the guys have played amateur rugby for about 2-3 years, so this [Dubai Sevens] is like a real eye-opener for them because rugby isn't even broadcast properly on TV back home," said Laker.

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