Rugby Union: A matter of time, perseverance and the melting pot

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The Independent Online
"Perhaps what we need is a melting pot," Ron Tennick said by way of a light-hearted introduction as to why there are so few Asians playing rugby union at senior level. The Rugby Football Union's technical administrator is aware of the situation, but there is no ready-made solution.

"The only one I can think of who has gone all the way through is Adel Kardooni, but he's Iranian," said Tennick, who runs the RFU's National Centre for Schools and Youth at Castlecroft, near Wolverhampton.

"So far as the Indians and Pakistanis are concerned, though, we've seen the odd one playing in schools' teams but not at county level. We found an awful lot playing at mini-level, although very few have progressed to 18, 19 or 20-year-old level yet. All the schools that play rugby will have Asians playing in their teams and they'll be taught the game."

It is a question, then, of persevering. Enter Tom Smith, the lock who can count Kardooni among his team-mates at Leicester and who is also the RFU's youth development officer in the county.

Smith, working in an area containing a large Asian population, is at the sharp end of attempts to spread the rugby union gospel. "I do quite a lot of work in the city generating interest, some of it among schools with a large number of Asian pupils.

"The work, though, is not aimed at any particular group. One of the problems here possibly could be that there are only three clubs in the city at present.

"I do believe that though the game has become faster it is still designed for all shapes and sizes and there is normally a position to suit everybody. What you have to take into consideration is that possibly the game is still quite new to Asians.

"The biggest problem sometimes is that it's fine while you're doing the work in the schools but then it's a question of making it easy for the kids to get to their local club.

"To be honest, my job is rugby youth development for anybody who wants to play, rather than targeting one particular angle. But it would be nice to encourage Asian children by giving them a taste of the game in the hope that they would then move on to a club.

"People are very aware of trying to get everybody involved and there may well be some youngsters in the system now who eventually come through to the top. It's a question of time.

"It's a process of giving them an opportunity to have a go, and that applies to all children because we're hoping to offer the sport to everybody."