India targeting first test win in the Philippines

India are one of four teams contesting the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship Division I titles in the Philippines this weekend and vice-captain Neha Pardeshi has high hopes for their campaign as they target a first test victory.

India vice-captain Neha Pardeshi is anticipating an exciting Asia Rugby Women’s Championship Division I for all four sides, including her own.

India, Singapore, China and the Philippines will compete for this year’s title, but there is more at stake for Pardeshi’s side.

With the winner of this tournament remaining in the hunt for a place at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021, Pardeshi has high hopes for India.

But having only competed in their first-ever women’s international 12 months ago in the same competition, her expectations are realistic.

“We had a great experience and exposure last year in Singapore,” said Pardeshi.

“We got to learn so many factors about 15s. India played against Singapore and Philippines last year which were ranked higher than us.

Women's rugby focus

“Although it was our first time playing 80 minutes, we believe we gave them a tough fight.”

This year there is a lot more exposure for rugby in India, with Naas Botha involved with the set up and Sweta Shahi featuring in World Rugby’s new Women in Rugby campaign.

At the end of last year, the Asia Rugby Women's U18 Championship was also hosted in India, adding further excitement for the sport in and outside of the country.

“The Under 18 Championship was a success and following that we have been spreading awareness and promotion of rugby.

“The tournament was a major boost for that. Over the world people have started showing interest in players, especially the women playing in India which is a step towards boosting women’s rugby in India.”

In India, similar to the men, the women now have a 16-team two-tier 15s tournament with a promotion and relegation system in place. It is one of the most competitive women’s domestic leagues in Asia. This alone is providing female players a pathway into the international arena.

Win a goal 

India are set to play in only their third and fourth test matches, having made history in 2018 with their first-ever women’s 15s internationals against Singapore and the Philippines.

This year they start their campaign against tournament hosts the Philippines on 19 June.

“As last year it was our first-ever time playing international 15s we surprised ourselves on how we played and performed.

“This year our aim is to win matches and show that India is capable to put a mark in 15s too.

“We have been training with coach Naas Botha and we are preparing us for the upcoming tournament.

“There are so many new structures we get to learn from them. We are all really looking forward to the tournament.”

The tournament will be streamed live on Asia Rugby’s Facebook page.

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