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It is a little known fact that India is the second oldest rugby playing nation and Chennai is where the initial seeds of rugby were sown. Despite this glorious history, there is little awareness or visibility for the game among the masses. To change this, Tamilnadu Rugby Football Union (TNRFU), a registered society committed to the promotion of rugby in the state organized an exclusive media event in association with e4e (sponsors of Chennai Cheetahs for the past 3 years) where Chennai came together symbolically to wish it's very own national rugby team success. The Chennai Cheetahs team is leaving to participate in the Senior All India Div I tournament being held at Mumbai from September 26 till October 3rd. Chennai Cheetahs have won the tournament twice and been runner-up thrice.
Sanjay Arora, IPS, IG, Tamilnadu Special Police led the symbolic coming together of Chennai to wish the team well by writing his own congratulatory message on the board kept for the purpose. He was joined by Kandaswamy Bharathan, Executive Director, Kavithalayaa Productions and representatives from various colleges in the city. Kits for the players in the team were handed over by Sanjay Arora, Kandhasamy Bharathan and Mohan Krishna. Post the media event, for the first time, Chennai Cheetahs performed their own version of "Hakka", a traditional ritual performed by the All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand to charge themselves before a game, exclusively for media.
In his comments, Sanjay Arora, said, "India is a large country with a large population. There is a space for a lot of sports and rugby with its implicit benefits of character development and physical fitness is an ideal candidate for attention. Wish the Chennai Cheetahs well and look forward to them bringing the trophy to Chennai this year."
Mohan Krishna, President, Healthcare services, e4e, the official sponsor of Chennai Cheetahs, said, "Chennai Cheetahs is a visible symbol of what passion and never say die spirit can. Here is a team that is among the best in India and is in contention in every tournament despite the players being from challenging backgrounds and not having much facilities or support to boast of. At e4e we are very proud of supporting a team that has such spirit and of course, history behind it."
According to Mike Pirrit, Coach, Chennai Cheetahs, "I have been with the team for some time and am happy to see them quickly mastering the finer nuances of rugby. The team has worked really hard, has immense potential, are playing as a unit and has everything in them to compete internationally. I only wish more people and sponsors come forward to support."
In his comments, Shyam Nagarajan, President, TNRFU said, "The whole event and Hakka performance is an attempt to raise awareness levels of rugby in Chennai. We constantly go to many schools adopting them into a rugby development program and considering we run on spirit and personal support of few individuals and companies, we rely on such events to raise awareness. Thanks Chennai for symbolically coming together to wish our team. They will surely bring us laurels."
In his comments, Kandaswamy Bharathan, Executive Director, Kavithalayaa Productions, said, "Though have not been following rugby as a sport, I know of its immense popularity in parts of the world. I am thrilled to know that Chennai has its own successful national rugby team and wish them well in this year's tournament."
Accepting the wishes, T J Ignatius, Captain, Chennai Cheetahs, said, "As a team and as individuals, we are very touched by the messages and support from across Chennaiites. This is a first for us though we have been participating in the tournament for long. I can tell you that the boys are raring to go to Mumbai and do their best. We hope to bring the trophy this time to Chennai."
About rugby in India/Chennai:
The team and rugby as a sport in India have an interesting history. Rugby in Chennai was started when a group of expatriates and software professionals came together in the year 1997, which saw the formation of the Chennai Cheetahs rugby club. The club had high ambitions and thus, debuted in the All India in the same year as its inception. The Cheetahs have won this tournament twice and are now going to bid for it for the third time. The team is presently ranked number 2 in the national levels and was the All India Champion in 2004 and 2006. They have also won the South India 'Ten a side' tournament in 2007 and 'All India Sevens' in 2005.
About TNRFU: The growth of rugby would not have been possible without the formation of the Tamil Nadu Rugby Football Union (TNRFU) in 1999. The TNRFU, legally registered under the Indian Societies Act (Registration No. 1428/2000), is headed by Shyam Nagarajan who is the President of the association. It has professionally managed and developed the sport, particularly in Chennai and South India in general, from its inception. The TNRFU is now a recognized member of the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association as well as the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu. The TNRFU is also a member of the India Rugby Football Union (IRFU) which in turn reports to the world governing body – the International Rugby Board (IRB).