Indian Rugby team upbeat ahead of Commonwealth test event


New Delhi: With no spectators to back them, India play their opening match in the eight-nation Commonwealth Rugby Sevens Championships against Uzbekistan instead of Pakistan as scheduled at the half-complete venue at Delhi University here Friday.

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The Indians were scheduled to play Pakistan in the opener, but there was a last-minute change in the schedule due to the late arrival of the sub-continental rival, who are expected late Thursday night.

Though India have not played Uzbekistan in the sevens format before, captain Nasser Hussain is confident of the team doing well and kicking off the tournament with a win.

“We will go all out for a victory,” Hussain told IANS.

“The 15-a-side rugby India team played Uzbekistan, but the Sevens is a different ball game. We are two of the strongest teams in our pool, so it will be an interesting match. Of course, we would have preferred to play Pakistan before taking on tougher opponents as we are a bit short on match practice. But we are excited and will go with a positive approach tomorrow.”

The Indian team recently returned from their three-week tour of New Zealand where they got a chance to train with the game’s legends Karl Te Nana, Craig De Goldi and Christian Cullen. Hussain said the stint did a world of good to the players.

“The New Zealand tour was fantastic, We got a lot of inputs from the coaches there and we would like to put them in practice here. We worked on our skills, structures and patterns. So, we are really looking forward to the tournament,” Hussain said.

“The focus is on winning the tournament. We will be taking one game at a time, putting to test whatever we have learned.”

Hussain was however upset that there will no crowd to cheer the side.

“India is hosting the first Rugby sevens tournament and it is a shame that no spectators will be allowed. It has taken away the home advantage factor.”

The Delhi Police has barred the spectators entry citing security concerns.

Ruby India vice-president Agha Hussain, said they are trying to compensate the absence of spectators by bringing in the women rugby players, who are scheduled to have a tournament next week.

“There is going to be an all India level women’s tournament from April 4 and girls have started to come in. So, we will have someone to cheer for the team.”