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Sports official defends rugby course in primary schools

(Xinhua)

08:57, June 06, 2012

NANJING, June 4 (Xinhua) -- A local sports official has defended a pilot plan to offer rugby courses in 30 primary schools in an eastern Chinese city, as the motion stirred concerns for children's safety.

Niu Yong, secretary-general of the rugby association in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, said the sport to be introduced into primary schools in fall is touch rugby, a safer variation of traditional rugby, and it would not pose significant safety risks.

Touch rugby rules permit and encourage players to touch their opponents with their hands on any part of the body, clothing or the ball, and do not allow for the violent physical contact featured in traditional rugby rules. The mild game is popular in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The sport will be practiced during gym classes and among special interest groups as well as during break periods in the pilot schools, said Niu, who is also director of the football administration center of the city's sports bureau.

The program was initiated by the International Rugby Board (IRB) and the city of Nanjing early this year as part of the former's latest efforts to promote the sport in countries unfamiliar with it, Niu said.

Nanjing was selected by the IRB to become the first city in the world to pilot the program, as it will host the Youth Olympic Games in 2014, he said.

The news about the upcoming introduction of rugby courses was posted online by an Internet user last week, prompting some to voice their disapproval.

A man surnamed Zhang living in Nanjing told the Yangtze Evening Post, a local newspaper, that his initial reaction to the news was, "It's too violent and bloody!"

Yu Zhenlin, a primary school teacher in the city, warned that accidents might occur due to some children's poor physical fitness.

Meanwhile, others have applauded the effort.

"The rugby course provides an opportunity for kids to do more exercise. It's absolutely a good thing," said a 35-year-old father surnamed Zhu.

"It's ridiculous to avoid the sport just because it's strenuous. Even improper running may cause sudden death, so does it mean that we should stop running?" said Tang Lan, a mother.

Nowadays, physical education in China has been confronted with parents' excessive worries about their only child, Niu said.

"As a result of their worries, all climbing facilities have been removed from schools, as parents fear kids may fall," he said.

He added that some boys have even lost their masculinity due to a lack of exercise.

To ease concerns, Niu said they plan to invite reporters and parents to watch touch rugby games before the pilot course officially kicks off.

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