For China, Olympics now a full-time affair
Rugby development on the mainland has taken a huge stride forward with coach Jiang Xuming confirming players at a provincial level are now playing full-time following inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympic Games programme.
Howver, China's 24-5 defeat by Kenya in the semi-finals of the Shield highlighted the gulf that still needs to be bridged for China to be even considered an outside hope for a medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, despite the earlier, 35-26 win over Hong Kong. But with the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympics, all 22 provinces have set up teams for the 2013 National Games in Liaoning, while China will also try to qualify for the Sevens World Cup in Russia the same year.
'We have students and players from the army, there are no professional or full-time players. The provinces have already formed teams and they are full-time now,' said Jiang. 'We are realistic and we know there is still a big gap between China and the others and we need to take it one step at a time.'
Hong Kong now represents China's only regular stop on the world circuit, with yesterday's win over the hosts their only success after also losing to England, the US and Japan. 'We are happy with the week in Hong Kong in terms of the players, management and the atmosphere,' added Jiang.
'We need to work hard to play in more series events. We would like to have an event like Hong Kong in China, but the awareness among the public is not very high. Hopefully, in the next few years with the support of the government and the teams, the players can play a lot better.'