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Rugby World Cup

China on brink of great leap towards World Cup finals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 8:15pm

Just 10 years after they made their first faltering move on to the international rugby scene, China are now just a couple of steps away from joining the big boys of the region - Japan and South Korea - in the race to see who will represent Asia at next year's World Cup.

'We have come a long way since our first international back in 1997. We now have a good chance of being ranked third in Asia and I believe in another 10 years, we will be capable of challenging Japan and Korea too,' said China coach Liu Yong on the eve of the clash against Sri Lanka.

Liu, a flanker in his playing days, was a member of China's first international match against Singapore. It was not a happy debut for China, as they lost 33-3. In the crowd that night at the Kallang Stadium in Singapore was the late Vernon Pugh, who was then the chairman of the International Rugby Board.

Pugh predicted afterwards that if everything fell into place on the development front, China would be an Asian power to reckon with by the time the 2015 World Cup rolled along. His words could prove to be prophetic, for China have made giant strides in the region and are now up against Sri Lanka and Hong Kong for a place in the final Asian zone qualifying round for the 2007 World Cup.

'They have made rapid progress as expected, and are now genuine contenders to make the top three in Asia,' said Jamie Scott, the secretary general of the Asian Rugby Football Union, who is in Colombo to witness the game.

'I arrived on the same flight as them and I must say, on first impressions, they have a big and strong side. I feel they can challenge both Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, and it says a lot for how far they have come in such a short time,' said Scott.

The 22-strong Chinese squad are largely drawn from players from the Guangzhou-based PLA (12) and the Chinese Agricultural University in Beijing (nine). They have been together for the past fortnight and will be match-ready as they come off a season of playing in Hong Kong - the PLA fielded a side in the First Division while a number of CAU players were spread around other local clubs.

'We are thankful to the Hong Kong Rugby Union for giving us the opportunity to play in the local league. Most of these players have been involved and as such won't be lacking match-fitness. The PLA also played in the Football Club 10s, and we have been training for some time,' said Liu.

However, he admitted to being worried - about the weather and about Sri Lanka's coach George Simpkin. Today's game will kick off at 3.30pm at a ground in the heart of the capital named after a former British governor - Longden Place. It will be hot and steamy.

'We trained for a fortnight in Guangzhou before coming here. It was hot back home, but not as hot as this,' said Liu as he watched his squad during the first of two practice runs yesterday morning. 'I hope the players will be able to acclimatise themselves quickly.'

'Also I'm worried by George [Simpkin]. I played under him and I know he is a very good coach and will have a lot of tricks up his sleeve,' said Liu.

'We have come a long way since our first international back in 1997. We now have a good chance of being ranked third in Asia and I believe in another 10 years, we will be capable of challenging Japan and Korea too,' said China coach Liu Yong on the eve of the clash against Sri Lanka.

Liu, a flanker in his playing days, was a member of China's first international match against Singapore. It was not a happy debut for China, as they lost 33-3. In the crowd that night at the Kallang Stadium in Singapore was the late Vernon Pugh, who was then the chairman of the International Rugby Board.

Pugh predicted afterwards that if everything fell into place on the development front, China would be an Asian power to reckon with by the time the 2015 World Cup rolled along. His words could prove to be prophetic, for China have made giant strides in the region and are now up against Sri Lanka and Hong Kong for a place in the final Asian zone qualifying round for the 2007 World Cup.

'They have made rapid progress as expected, and are now genuine contenders to make the top three in Asia,' said Jamie Scott, the secretary general of the Asian Rugby Football Union, who is in Colombo to witness the game.

'I arrived on the same flight as them and I must say, on first impressions, they have a big and strong side. I feel they can challenge both Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, and it says a lot for how far they have come in such a short time,' said Scott.

The 22-strong Chinese squad are largely drawn from players from the Guangzhou-based PLA (12) and the Chinese Agricultural University in Beijing (nine). They have been together for the past fortnight and will be match-ready as they come off a season of playing in Hong Kong - the PLA fielded a side in the First Division while a number of CAU players were spread around other local clubs.

'We are thankful to the Hong Kong Rugby Union for giving us the opportunity to play in the local league. Most of these players have been involved and as such won't be lacking match-fitness. The PLA also played in the Football Club 10s, and we have been training for some time,' said Liu.

However, he admitted to being worried - about the weather and about Sri Lanka's coach George Simpkin. Today's game will kick off at 3.30pm at a ground in the heart of the capital named after a former British governor - Longden Place. It will be hot and steamy.

'We trained for a fortnight in Guangzhou before coming here. It was hot back home, but not as hot as this,' said Liu as he watched his squad during the first of two practice runs yesterday morning. 'I hope the players will be able to acclimatise themselves quickly.'

'Also I'm worried by George [Simpkin]. I played under him and I know he is a very good coach and will have a lot of tricks up his sleeve,' said Liu.