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Rugby taking off in China, says Zhang

China's best known rugby union player Zhang Zhiqiang says the sport is finally taking off in his country but that a lot of work is needed to book a berth at the 2016 Olympics.

"Rugby was a niche sport in China a few years ago when there were less than 1,000 people playing it," said the 37-year-old, also known as Johnny Zhang, the highest points scorer of all time at the Hong Kong Hong Kong (hŏng kŏng), Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2005 est. pop. 6,899,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Guangdong prov.  Sevens.

"But ever since rugby was included in the National Games and the 2016 Olympics, the general public became more interested in it and participation grew as a result," he said.

Rugby union will return at the Rio See RapidIO and MP3.  de Janeiro Games where the sevens version will be played.

"New teams are forming across provinces with the backing of the government and this is all good news for rugby in my country," said Zhang, in a press release from the Asian Rugby Football Union and HSBC HSBC Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
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China currently ranks 62nd in the world in the sport.

Zhang said previously the game was mainly the preserve of international school students and foreigners, and Chinese people The following is a '''list of famous Chinese-speaking/writing people. Note in Chinese names, the family name is typically placed first (for example, the family name of "Xu Feng" is "Xu").  would often mistake it for American football.

"Now, local kids are excited and proud of this sport, and are eager to learn and practice. You can see the passion and excitement in their eyes," he said.

Zhang said if China qualified for the Olympics "it will create even more awareness amongst the public."

"I hope the players in the provincial teams can improve quickly enough to become key players representing our nation," he said.

"Japan, Hong Kong and (South) Korea are the top teams in Asia and with probably just two slots available, we must work really hard to prove we deserve a place."
Copyright 2011 AFP Global Edition
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Author:Staff Reporter
Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Dec 23, 2011
Words:290
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