The India National Sevens rugby team beat UAE to win the Shield at its home tournament, the HSBC Asian Sevens Series’ India Sevens, at the Bombay Gymkhana. It was the second Shield win for India after their HSBC A7S series debut last month in Thailand. India beat the UAE on that occasion too, winning 31-10, and this time they bettered the margin of victory by a single point, winning 22-0. India’s captain Hrishikesh Pendse talks about the win in this exclusive interview:
Q. You got an eye injury in the very first match. Was it difficult to play after that?
Well, rugby is a tough and rough game. It was unfortunate that I got hurt but then it wasn’t too bad and these things happen. I have stitches all around my left eye and it was a little difficult to play with that but now it’s fine. I hope it gets better soon.
Q. What was the experience of playing the tournament like?
The experience was really good; we won 4 out of 6 matches and the Shield Trophy, and that too at our home. All the teams are pretty tough. My whole team did a very good job on the field and gave their hundred percent. It was a great win considering we had to play an unprecedented four matches on day one in the round robin, as Pakistan were not able to attend. We were a bit tired after that day and I think that was one of the crucial factors in our opening loss in the Bowl quarterfinal to Kazakhstan. But we regrouped after that match and I’m proud that we finished with a win.
Q. You guys made the finals look very easy.
Well, I’m really proud because for the second time we have beaten one of the core international teams on the Series, the United Arab Emirates. They play at every event on the Series and for us to beat them after making only sporadic appearances on the Series shows our potential.
Q. Did you guys enjoy the home support?
Oh yes, a lot! We wait for such moment as playing on home turf gives a new dimension to the game and you perform a little better; it adds to both the team and individual performance. A large crowd turned up to support us and to win in front of our friends and families who were there is always sweet. I want to thank everyone who showed up to support us over the last two days.
Q. When did you first start playing rugby?
I used to play lot of squash at first but then shifted to rugby at the age of 17. I started playing at the Bombay Gymkhana in Mumbai. I was lucky enough to go and train in London for a year and after that signed a one-year contract with a Japanese company, Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers, to play in the Top League, Japan’s premier domestic league. Later on I went to New Zealand too. I have been bouncing around the world to play rugby. It’s a good life to lead.
Q. How do you think rugby can be made popular in India?
I think more tournaments like this should be organized to attract more people. This will help them get attached to the game as even I started liking the game like this. It’s important that one enjoys the game and hopefully rugby will get its due share of popularity in the coming future.