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Bringing some Bollywood sparkle to the event, Sidharth Malhotra, joined former India international player, actor and director Rahul Bose, World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper, Asia Rugby President Aga Hussain and Rugby India General Secretary Mahesh Mathai to celebrate the game ahead of Japan 2019.
Bollywood superstar Malhotra, a former Delhi Hurricanes rugby player and fan of the game told World Rugby TV: “It feels amazing for the Rugby World Cup to be here and I’m very excited to have it on Indian soil for the first time. I played rugby when I was younger and think it is one of the best sports that teaches you discipline, fitness and controlled aggression.
“It’s a great initiative to bring the Webb Ellis Cup to a country where rugby is quite new and needs a little push. I’m looking forward to seeing all the children get inspired and pick up the sport and hopefully play for India in future. It is my dream is to see India play at the Rugby World Cup one day.”
Also joining the event was India sevens captain Gautam Dagar, India women's sevens captain Neha Pardeshi and India women’s 15s captain Vahbiz Bharucha. The players joined in the festivities at Bombay Gymkhana, delivering a rugby training session for local players with Sidharth Malhotra and Rahul Bose also taking part.
Speaking at the event Gosper said: “It has been fantastic to witness the huge levels of excitement, enthusiasm and curiosity that have accompanied the Webb Ellis Cup on every stop of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour in India over the past week and especially today at the Bombay Gymkhana club which has such a famous rugby history.
“With the support of the Indian Sports Minister, the well-executed programme of activities by our colleagues at Asia Rugby and Rugby India, together with a sprinkling of Bollywood stardust from famous actors passionate about the game, it has been a very productive visit to Delhi and Mumbai and a real sense of momentum is building towards the first Rugby World Cup to be held in Asia next year. I am certain there is a very bright future ahead for Indian rugby.”
Following a formal welcome by the honourable Sports Minister of India, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in Delhi on Monday, the Trophy Tour has spent the week in India and reached another of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. Visited by some of the world’s most influential leaders and high-profile figures, the Webb Ellis Cup is one of few sports trophies to be pictured at the iconic location in India.
The Trophy Tour also visited one of the best-preserved architectural sites in Delhi, the Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site which traces its roots back to the middle of the 17th century, as well as the famous memorial, India Gate.
With just over one year to go until Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place in Japan, the Webb Ellis Cup will also visit Bhubaneswar after Mumbai.
Hosted once every four years, the Rugby World Cup is the game’s centrepiece event and the third largest sports event in the world after the summer Olympics and the Football World Cup. Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place in Japan from 20 September-2 November, 2019 and will see the best 20 teams in the world compete for rugby’s greatest prize.
Rugby World Cup 2019 is supported by six worldwide partners: DHL, Emirates, Heineken, Land Rover, Master Card and Société Générale. Ahead of Japan 2019, the two-year Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour is underway visiting 18 countries aiming to inspire and engage new and existing rugby players and fans. The Trophy Tour supports World Rugby’s Impact Beyond Programme which aims to use World Rugby tournaments as a catalyst for the growth of the game.
Project Asia 1 Million, part of Impact Beyond, which aims to attract one million new rugby participants by 2020, has already reached over 500,000 people across Asia. India is the eighth leg of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour and follows a recent visit to the Philippines.
Since the Tour launched in 2017, the Rugby World Cup has visited both established and emerging rugby nations including England, Uruguay, Spain, Fiji, Hong Kong and China. The Rugby World Cup is in India for the first time and will also visit countries including Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil and Chile in the lead up to the tournament.
Rugby has a rich history in India, dating back to 1924 when the inaugural All India and South East Asia Rugby Championship was first played on Indian soil. The last two years has seen the biggest growth and development of rugby across the country with India ranked first in Asia and third in the world in terms of participation numbers through World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby programme by reaching over 160,000 participants in 2017.
In addition, rugby is now a core sport in the SGFI’s National School Games Calendar for the U14, U17 and U19 Boys and Girls categories as well as part of AIU’s National University Games calendar – yet another major milestone for Rugby India and World Rugby’s ambitions to grow the game globally.
On the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour Mahesh Mathai, Rugby India General Secretary, said: “We are extremely proud and honoured that India has been chosen as one of the 18 nations that will host the coveted Rugby World Cup as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour. It is encouraging that World Rugby has recognized and acknowledged Rugby India’s efforts to grow and develop this beautiful game across India.
“I would like to call upon the wider rugby fraternity from across the country to join hands and welcome this magnificent trophy to India. We also sincerely thank all those who have supported and invested in the game in India, particularly Rugby India partner Société Générale for the commitment and cooperation they have extended to grow and develop rugby across the country – also one of the six Rugby World Cup 2019 worldwide partners. Japan 2019 is the first time that the tournament will be played on Asian soil and we are glad to be a part of this rugby celebration in the lead up to this exciting tournament.”