Women's rugby to take Asia by storm: Wang

It is the golden age for women's rugby and Asia has the potential to be at the forefront of that unparalleled expansion.

Developing the sport within the region will be one of Wang Shao-Ing's key priorities over the course of her one-year term on World Rugby's newly formed women's advisory committee.

Earlier this month, the 39-year-old national women's head coach was invited to join the international governing body, the first Singaporean to be appointed to any World Rugby advisory committee.

She said: "There are more than 30 unions in Asia and it's very diverse, unlike Europe for example.

"There are so much possibilities for growth here."

According to a report this year commissioned by HSBC, the sponsor of the World Rugby Sevens Series, women's rugby is the fastest-growing sport in the world.

In 2012, there were 200,000 registered women players and that year was the inaugural season of the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series.

There are now two million female players in more than 110 countries and that figure is estimated to hit six million by 2026.

Asia's role cannot be understated, noted Wang, who is also an adjunct law lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic.

Japan and Hong Kong have qualified for next year's Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland, the first time two Asian countries will compete since the 1994 edition, when Japan and Kazakhstan featured.

The 2019 men's version will be hosted in Japan, the first staging in Asia.

Gender parity in sport is still a pipe dream but progress is being made, with Wang pointing to last week's election of Farah Palmer as the first female member on the New Zealand Rugby board.

She said: "There's greater representation of women in governance these days and the Rio Olympics also gave women's rugby a lot of visibility."

Wang served as the sole judicial officer for both the men's and women's rugby sevens competitions in Rio, and her latest appointment was confirmation of her technical competency, said Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping.

He added: "She's proven herself at the regional and international level and is committed to promoting the women's cause.

"Shao-Ing's legal background is also valuable and coupled with her clear passion, makes her a well-rounded choice by World Rugby."

Last year's Singapore SEA Games, with the hosts' women's team winning a silver, has also provided a fillip on the domestic front.

Since taking charge of the national team in July last year, Wang has seen greater interest at open trials.

The 21-woman first team is now complemented by a 20-woman second-string squad, evidence of a depth that was missing in the past.

The Republic finished fifth at this year's Asia Rugby Women's Sevens Championship and national captain Alvinia Ow Yong is confident of cracking the top four at next year's event.

Wang said: "It's a big year for us. We want to do well at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and try to improve our ranking."


This article was first published on December 25, 2016.
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