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India takes on Hong Kong in Asian Women's Sevens Rugby Championship Opener

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India will take on Hong Kong in the opening match of the Asian Rugby Sevens Women's championship at the Balewadi Sports Complex athletics stadium on Saturday with team captain Surabhi Date expressing confidence in making India's participation count this time around.

Ranked No 68 in the world, Indian women have steadily been growing in confidence after a few international exposure trips, but at home things could be different, feels Surabhi.

"Crowd support makes a lot of difference and having done extensive practice over last few weeks I would expect a much better show from the team," said Surabhi on the eve of the Asian Championship that had been designated as 2013 World Cup qualifier.

The pitch is in good condition given that it's been maintained for the I-League competition. In all 21 league matches will be played on Saturday with top two teams from four pools making it to the quarterfinals.

The 12-member Indian team has seven players from Pune, which should make the city proud for taking a lead in women's rugby. Besides Surabhi, Saloni Prachande, Vahbiz Bharucha, Ketaki Khare, Neha Pardeshi, Shruti Marathe and Annapurna Bathate are the players from Pune.

"We are delighted to be here to see such an enthusiasm for rugby. This is for the first time that 16 teams will be competing in the Asian Championships, up from 12 last year," informed Jarrad Gallagher, Regional General Manager of International Rugby Board (IRB).

"Since this championship offers one of those three positions at next year's World Cup in Moscow, India will see quality rugby during next two days," Gallagher added.

IRB's Ross Mitchell said India had all the talent but lacks in infrastructure. We are hoping that at least government funds will now come to the sport after Rugby 7s got included in the Olympic Games programme from 2016 Olympics onwards.

Fifteen teams including defending champion China and runner-up Kazakhstan have arrived for the championship, being organized by Let's Play Sports Management Company Pvt Ltd. China, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, Japan, UAE, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Fiji, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Iran, and host India will be competing over two days.

Top two finishers after the league matches will be playing for Cup/Plate competition, while the bottom two will compete in Bowl/Shield event.

Indian Team: Surabhi Date (Capt.), Saloni Prachande, Vahbiz Bharucha, Namita Bhoj, Ketaki Khare, Bhagyalaxmi Barik, Laxmipriya Sahu, Neha Pardeshi, Meera, Tomalika Sarkar, Shruti Marathe and Annapurna Bathate