- Contrast adds to rich experience
- Social interaction a vital ingredient
Photo: RFU Archive
Leafy Melrose RFC in the picturesque Scotland Borders has little in common with urban West Yorkshire, but for the India Sevens RU squad that visited the UK this week, the pairing made a winning combination.
There was never a real prospect that the Indian players would make a big impact on the oldest sevens tournament in the world, but in accepting an invitation to visit Greenyards as one of the 2013 guest teams, development was the name of the game, a target that was fulfilled by a strong display from local ‘experts’ Galashiels.
The cosmopolitan tourists then displayed their versatility by attending the Bradford Bulls v Wigan RL game at Odsal before moving into the role of developers themselves when they visited Parkinson Lane Primary School in Halifax.
There they were treated to a musical assembly by the youngsters, who delivered a remarkably accomplished exhibition of song and dance and even tempted members of the Indian contingent to demonstrate that they possessed plenty of the footwork and rhythm required to fit seamlessly into the proceedings.
In exchange, the tourists spent time providing a rugby coaching session for some of the pupils, who have already shown an aptitude for tag rugby in local competitions and clearly enjoyed working with their guests.
The following day roles were reversed again when Hamish Pratt, Rugby Development Officer for West Yorkshire, welcomed the Indian party and members of the West Yorkshire Rugby Development Team put them through their paces in a coaching session at Bradford College.
The visit was organised by Ikram Butt, Manager of the British Asian Rugby Association, who was full of praise for the visit.
“The Indian lads were on a steep learning curve in Melrose and will have learned from the experience, but they will also have learned even more from their visit to Bradford and Halifax,” he said. “The rugby content delivered by Hamish and his colleagues will add to their fund of knowledge, as will the rugby league experience at Odsal, while meeting the youngsters at Parkinson Lane Primary and the reception they received will have provided them with a feel-good factor that they are bound to remember for a long time.
“Having a group of personable, friendly young international sportsmen paying them a visit was a big thrill for the children and the response from the players made it quite clear how much they warmed to the friendship and hospitality.”
Indian team manager Manech Unwala said: “Our visit has undoubtedly been a great experience for the lads to come to this part of the world because while the boys are accustomed to travelling, it is generally around Asia. We expected the visit to Melrose to be a learning curve and so it proved, but I think we did fairly well in the circumstances, with not much time to prepare and the weather against us.
“Our visit to Bradford was excellent and we are indebted to Ikram Butt for putting in place all the various inputs that we enjoyed and which I know will be very beneficial to our squad.
“We had two training sessions in Bradford, which is why we were here, but it was important for us to include some social activity and going to Parkinson Lane Primary was the cherry on the cake.
“Interacting with a group of charming, delightful kids and warm, friendly staff led by headmaster Gugsy Ahmed made the session totally enjoyable for us and we all fully appreciated what was done for us. The boys were all very happy to have made the visit and I was happy that we did so.”
Pratt added: “The players are outstanding role models within sport and they are building bridges within rugby’s wider family. We hope that these links can only get stronger as we look to exchange ideas with the Indian Rugby Board.”