Rugby union in China

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Rugby union in China
Country People's Republic of China
Governing body Chinese Rugby Football Association
National team People's Republic of China
First played Early 20th century
Registered players 4810 [1]
Clubs 10
National competitions
Club competitions

Rugby union in China is a growing sport; however, it is still not overly popular. China became affiliated to the International Rugby Board in 1997 and as of September 3, 2011, is currently ranked 61st in the world. The national team has yet to qualify for a Rugby World Cup.


Early rugby union in China was often played by expatriates of various rugby playing nations, and colonials. For example, there was a rugby club in Shanghai,[2] where many of these could be found, and there was also a significant presence in Hong Kong, due to the strong connections with the British Commonwealth. The Shanghai club folded in 1952, and the surplus funds were presented to the English RFU for a "Royal Retiring Room", at Twickenham near London.[2]

For a period, rugby was banned in China, with the national Sports Council stating that "the meeting of sullied bodies in physical contact cannot be approved."[2]

In post-Cultural Revolution days, the relative strength of rugby in Hong Kong has helped reintroduce the sport into the PRC, and the head of the HKRFU George Simkin introduced a development programme there.[3]

Chinese delegates were amongst those who went to the centenary congress of the International Rugby Football Board in 1986.[4]

Rugby re-emerged in the PRC in 1990, with a club forming at the Beijing Agricultural University (now merged into China Agricultural University) at Beijing. A professor there, Chao Xihuang was introduced to the sport by a Japanese businessman, and set up a couple of sides.[3]

The growth of the sport has been massive. For example, in 1991, there were a mere 30 registered players in China. By 1996, there were over a thousand instructors alone.[3]

Today, one segment of Chinese society where rugby is particularly popular is the military. Rugby is an official sport of the People's Liberation Army, with the PLA Sports Institute participating in the highly competitive Hong Kong leagues.[3]

Notable Chinese rugby players include Zhang Zhiqiang ("Johnny Zhang"), who had a stint with the famous Leicester Tigers club in England, and promising young speedster Li Yang, who boasts a time of 10.6 seconds in the 100-metre sprint.

In June 2006, a delegation from Leicester rugby club led by Martin Johnson went on a week-long visit to China to promote the game.[5]

Since the beginning of 2000s, China has concerned more of the rugby sevens instead of the 15-men rugby, due to the Olympic strategy.

Super Cup[edit]

The Super Cup was an annual international rugby union competition contested by national teams from Canada, Japan, Romania and the United States. It was previously known as the Super Powers Cup.

The Super Powers Cup was first launched in 2003. It was planned that China, Japan, Russia and the United States would play each other once. However, because of the SARS outbreak the Chinese team were forced to withdraw. Russia won the inaugural competition, defeating the USA 30-21 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.[6] For the 2004 competition Canada replaced China.

Related regions[edit]

Hong Kong and Macau[edit]

Rugby union has an uninterrupted history in Hong Kong, where arguably the most successful sevens tournament is held. The national team of Hong Kong also participates in the Asian Five Nations. However, Rugby union has a much smaller presence in Macau.


Main article: Rugby union in Taiwan

Rugby union has an unbroken history in Taiwan, but the Chinese Civil War and souring of relations with the mainland has meant that it was effectively cut off.

Nonetheless, Taiwan, playing as Chinese Taipei, has a very successful rugby sevens side, and it is ranked in fourth position in East Asia, after Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Cotton, Fran (Ed.) (1984) The Book of Rugby Disasters & Bizarre Records. Compiled by Chris Rhys. London. Century Publishing. ISBN 0-7126-0911-3
  3. ^ a b c d Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1) p65
  4. ^ Starmer-Smith, p186
  5. ^
  6. ^ : Russia take Super Powers Cup

External links[edit]