Feb 24, 2017
Arguably the club with the best training facilities in the city, the Suzhou Rugby Club, also known as the ‘Late Knights’, is Suzhou’s premier rugby team. Drawing players from across Suzhou and from further afield, the club trains every Thursday night at Dulwich College. With a very good rugby ground and, when the weather is less than ideal, an equally good indoor gym, the training facilities and location are about as good as it gets for local sports.
Also about as good as it gets is the quality of the players the team attracts. Catering for all levels, the club provides for players new to the sport who are keen to learn, as well as experienced and highly skilled players who wish to continue playing at a decent competitive level while being based in China. This is supplemented through entry into the national sevens, tens and fifteens events.
The club also performs a strong social function, with close links to the Camel Sports Bar, and through supporting and competing in other city wide events such as the Black Tie Boxing which is held annually at the Crowne Plaza. In fact, it is the strong social function that the club provides that appeals to many and, with a good social group which new players can become a part, the attraction to join is fairly obvious.
Equally as important as the combined social and sporting opportunities the club provides is the chance to travel. Recent sporting events have been held in Nanjing and Hangzhou. There are also events held elsewhere around the country, such as in Xiamen and Hong Kong. The next major event is coincidently being held here in Suzhou.
On the 25th of February the first round of competitive fixtures in the rugby union fifteen aside calendar will take place here in Suzhou at Dulwich College. Entry is free for spectators who would like to learn more about the game, or who may have an interest in joining the club. There will also be a barbecue and drinks being served and a day of sport that should be as entertaining as it is interesting.
For Suzhou, with its newly built sporting stadium in SIP, and with rugby union growing in popularity around China, the quality of the rugby is surprisingly high. When I began to play again after an almost twenty year hiatus I expected the level to be reasonable but nothing to write home about. To say I had something of a rude awakening would be an understatement.
The quality of some of the players is very high, and the physicality of some of the games demanding. The fitness required to play at a high level is also notable. That said, many teams in reality are built around a combination of enthusiasm and experience with a range of ages in evidence. Often squad size becomes important as replacing tiring legs ensures energy levels do not drop too much.
In short, rugby would appear to be growing in China. The popularity of the game may surprise some. It certainly did me when I returned to playing. It is also good to know that, whether one would like to learn, play to keep fit, or play competitively, the opportunity to do so exists here in Suzhou.
About the Column
Gareth Morris is a university language teacher. He is also a part-time doctoral student. Gareth first moved to China in 2005 and, after spending a couple of years back in the UK studying for his PGCE and Masters, has now returned to the city he calls home. During his time in China Gareth has travelled extensively. His travels have taken him from Beijing and Xian to Kunming and Haikou. He has also spent time in Hong Kong and Macao. In addition to this, Gareth has lived in a number of countries across Europe, North and Central America and Asia. Closer to home, Gareth has enjoyed visiting numerous localities within Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. His Livingsu column will explore local places of interest found within walking distance of Metro line 1.