Try, try and try again

Updated: 2016-01-22 08:12

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily)

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To attract a growing number of student players, more than 10 universities in China, including CAU, Beijing Normal University and South China Agriculture University, have introduced majors in athletic training with rugby as a specialty.

Since 2013, the National University Rugby Sevens Championship has been organized annually, with last year's event attracting 12 male and eight female college teams from across the country.

"There's still a long way to go until the game is accepted as a great educational tool in China, but we won't give up pushing," Zhang said.

The CRFA's Cui Weihong said one of the priorities on the association's agenda this year is to organize regular training sessions for coaches and referees, with funding and technical support from the International Rugby Board.

Funded by the China Scholarship Council, 18 Chinese rugby coaches from across the country will fly to England, the birthplace of the game, in June for a three-month training program.

Professional dreams

Despite the game's improving profile in China, playing rugby as a semi-professional in the national system remains a labor of love, given that players earn much less than their millionaire counterparts in the country's top professional soccer and basketball leagues.

Players on provincial teams competing at the National Games earn an average 5,000 yuan ($760) a month, supplemented by a share of prize money - ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of yuan - if they win the title.

Even if they are recruited by the national team, players only receive a monthly training allowance of 600 yuan.

To put it into perspective, the sum pales into insignificance when compared with the salary of Jonny Wilkinson, a retired English rugby star and World Cup winner, who was paid $61,000 a month when he played for Toulon, the French Top 14 club, in the 2013-14 season.

Without a national league, the lack of consistent exposure in the years between the National Games has hampered the sport's appeal to sponsors and investors in China.

"The biggest problem is that we don't have enough games to play. If people can't see us play on a regular basis throughout the year, how can we promote the sport?" Xu Fangjie, coach of the Liaoning provincial men's team, asked.

Last year, to help the game gain consistent exposure, the CRFA divided the annual Sevens National Championships into four legs held in different cities, and will also host the Asian Sevens Series in October.

"The sevens' action will keep going from April to November with a series of scheduled events. We hope this intensive exposure will attract interest from sponsors and sports marketing agencies to help establish a professional league in the near future," Cui said.

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