An international rugby tournament has concluded in Ho Chi Minh City, with the participation of teams from nine countries and administrations including Vietnam, where the sport is still alien to most.
The second annual Saigon Rugby 10’s tournament, organized by Hong Kong-based restaurant franchiser Al Fresco’s Group (AFG), kicked off at 9:00 am on Saturday morning at RMIT University in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City.
This year’s tournament welcomed over 200 players from 15 teams representing nine different countries and territories, including Vietnam, China, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, according to the organizers.
Rugby is a team sport typically played with 30 players divided amongst two opposing teams, with the goal of scoring as many points as possible by getting the ball over the other team’s baseline.
Though relatively new to Vietnam, rugby has been gaining increased attention from youths in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which each sent a team to Saigon Rugby 10’s.
“It’s not fair to say this sport involves many injuries simply from observing the frequent collisions on the field,” said Tran Chi Hien, 17, a player on the Hanoi Dragons.
“When making a dive at other players, we have to follow certain rules, such as only aiming for below the shoulder, or tackling your opponents by wrestling them down without leaving injuries,” Hien said.
“I have practiced rugby for a year without getting any injuries myself. It’s not as dangerous as people think,” he added.
Hien admitted, however, that his short stature was a disadvantage in the sport when playing against foreign players, though he could utilize his agility to wriggle through approaching opponents.
At one corner of the rugby field, Vietnamese children could be seen practicing the sport with volunteer instructors from team Saigon Geckos and ex-players from the Australian national rugby team.
Greg Cornelsen, one of the volunteer instructors from Australia who retired from his professional rugby career over thirty years ago, said he has joined rugby tournaments in many different countries to introduce the sport to a wider audience.
The man behind the tournament, Peter Holdsworth, an expat who has spent the past ten years living and working in Vietnam, said he hopes to use these types of events to create awareness of the sport in Vietnam.
Holdsworth, using Japan’s status of host for the 2019 Rugby World Cup as an example, believes that people from Asian countries, including Vietnam, can play rugby just as well as western players despite the sport requiring great strength and stamina.
The man said he plans to expand the tournament and hopes to have 32 teams registered for next year’s event.