“That awareness has to come first, the problematic attitudes will come later.” The physical nature of the sport, she thinks, is the primary reason children are dissuaded from taking it up. “I was a very clumsy child to begin with and used to get injured very often.“Parents get scared because they think it is violent,” she says. But most of my injuries were not because of rugby but because I hadn’t warmed up or cooled down properly or wasn’t training correctly.
“The atmosphere during the World Cup was just unbelievable,” the 24-year-old says excitedly over the phone. I know everyone in India says they are crazy about cricket, but this is a totally different level.
There were processions held and obviously once the team (New Zealand) won, they had a victory parade in Auckland.” For Date, the contrast could not have been more pronounced: Rugby has little following in India.
But there was a club nearby, called College Rifles; I started playing with them once I shifted here.” That’s where she heard that the Auckland Rugby club was holding trials.
In August, Date created history when she got selected for the Auckland Thunder club’s development squad—she is the first and only rugby player from India, male or female, to play for a team outside the country.
No sporting event or team is more important for New Zealand than the Rugby World Cup, which ran from 18 September-31 October, and the All Blacks.
For Surabhi Date, it was like a monochromatic wonderland.The Indian men’s team is currently ranked 76th in the world out of 102 teams—the countries ranked below India, like Pakistan and Mauritius, can barely be called rugby-playing nations.The Indian women’s team started participating in tournaments only since 2009, and that too sporadically.The Rugby Union, the world governing body, has not yet started ranking women’s teams even though the women’s game has been in existence since 1982. They don’t really know if anyone in India plays rugby,” says Date.“Unfortunately, the university I go to does not have a rugby team.They used to play rugby over there in the monsoons, so I just joined in.