Guangzhou Players Represent China in Touch Rugby World Cup

By Ryan Gandolfo, April 28, 2019

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While rugby hasn’t exactly been crowned China’s next big sport, there are a growing number of people in the country who have developed a love for the game. It’s one of the reasons why China has been invited to play in the Touch Rugby World Cup, a tournament that brings together the best touch rugby players from around the world to decide who will be crowned world champions. On Sunday, April 28, players from 26 nations will arrive in Putrajaya, Malaysia, with teams sorted into a number of groups.

The tournament takes place every four years, much like the FIFA World Cup, and while you might not see the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in attendance, this gathering of sportspeople brings together a variety of passionate folks from a number of backgrounds.

Image provided by Jordan Zhu

Starting today, the Touch Rugby World Cup will officially begin, and China will be represented by many players based in Guangzhou, which is considered the capital for touch rugby in the Middle Kingdom. With both a mixed and women’s squad playing for the PRC, the two teams are looking to have a great time and play their hearts out. 

We caught up with Jordan Zhu, the Women’s Open team manager and a Mixed Open Team player for China, to talk about the international competition, rugby in China and their last World Cup appearance in Australia.

What’s it like to represent China at the Touch Rugby World Cup? What are the expectations for the mixed and women’s teams?
It’s a great honor. For many players who have just gotten the opportunity, we can’t believe it is real, much like how I felt four years ago after getting invited to the last World Cup. While some of us have played touch football for more than 10 years, others have only played for a short period of time. Most of the team comes from different sports backgrounds. This opportunity to compete for our nation at the World Cup is something we will hold dear for the rest of our lives.

Image provided by Jordan Zhu

Our goals are more game focused rather than tournament focused. Rather than expecting to finish with a certain ranking, the coaches of the Mixed Open and Women’s Open teams set goals for each match, such as limiting turnovers to less than five a game or finishing a set of attacks in 15 seconds. These types of goals are the main focus for the teams.

How’s the competition from the other 117 competing teams around the world?
The World Cup has different divisions, with the three Open Divisions being the most competitive. Other divisions, such as Over 35 Men and Over 27 Women are less competitive. We faced off against Malaysia’s Mixed Open team during the pool games and came away with a victory back in 2017 in Johor Bahru. 

Tell us about how much rugby as a sport has developed in Guangzhou?
Guangzhou has become the main base for national team players in the China Touch Association, with frequent competitions taking place around the PRD. Also, the city’s two major full-contact teams, Guangzhou Hualong and Guangzhou Rams, face off regularly and compete in tournaments in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Pattaya.

Image provided by Jordan Zhu

If you could pick one extra player to have on your squad, who would it be?
I would say our Mixed Open Manager Topy Xu, who has also assisted us with sponsors. As the secretary of the China Touch Association, he’s been highly supportive of the players when they need help. 

Any memorable stories from the last World Cup you’d like to share?
It was very muddy, making for a messy affair at the tournament grounds in Coffs Harbor, Australia. But playing in the mud made the experience even more unforgettable. As for our pregame meals, we usually had bread and milk throughout the tournament, but it just so happened that we secured our first win after a nice Chinese meal in a nearby shopping mall.

There’s also a special and inspiring story that I would like to share about one of the players on our Women’s Open team, named C. After defeating cancer, she worked really hard on and off the field, conducting a lot of management work. With less than one year of experience, C made it on the team and is gearing up to go on her first-ever World Cup trip.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank our sponsor Healthy Care Australia as well as Dragon Zhong, who will be a key member of the mixed squad in the tournament.

Click here to watch the games on YouTube.

For people who would like to get involved with the rugby community in Guangzhou, you can contact Jordan at 180 2400 8688 or Vega at 138 2220 6676 (WeChat ID: vegahuihui). They have touch rugby programs every Wednesday night at the football venue in Tiyu Sports Center right off of Tiyu Dong Lu.

[Cover image provided by Jordan Zhu]

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