SANTIAGO- Head of Women’s Rugby and the Get Into Rugby program Soledad Galleguillos has revealed that the Union aims for rugby to be “one of the most popular team sports in the country.“ Last year brought successes on and off the field, with success for the 7s team and a historic fixture against the Maori All Blacks—the biggest fixture in Chilean Rugby history.
A sport traditionally associated with the upper classes, not just in Chile but across the globe, rugby has been trying to shake this image in recent years and to break into the sporting market as a game for the masses, as it looks to build ground since going professional in 1999.
Nowadays, “rugby is getting bigger and bigger and has participation across the social classes” according to head of Women’s Rugby and the “Get Into Rugby” program, Soledad Galleguillos. “It’s a perception based upon how rugby traditionally developed.”
Despite this age-old perception, one of Rugby Chile’s goals is “to become one of the most popular team games in the country” and there is some evidence to suggest that things are well on their way, with the “Condors’ 7s and XV teams making history, while women’s rugby continues to grow.
Records Broken Against All Blacks
In November last year, records were broken as “Los Condores XV” faced up to a formidable Maori All Blacks side at a sold out San Carlos de Apoquindo. The Maoris completed a whitewash on their first South American tour, overcoming Brazil 3-35 followed by Chile 0-73. The event marked Chilean Rugby’s largest ever attendance to a match with over 15,000, and it was also the first ever live broadcast of Chilean international rugby.
Galleguillos says that [the Maori All Blacks game] “gave us national recognition and demonstrated that we are capable of organising events of this stature.” The Union hopes that Chile will be able to host more events of this nature in the future.
Chilean Women And Rugby
While success on the field will hopefully increase interest across the social classes, Galleguillos has also seen encouraging numbers of women getting involved with the sport. “We have huge numbers. We have almost 1,200 female players and around 80 clubs across the country, from Arica to Punta Arenas.”
“There is a pathway for women in rugby, which is starting from a younger and younger age. For those women retiring too, they have options to recycle their talents and work in various different fields.”
Another important factor in the global growth of rugby is the inclusion of XV’s abbreviated format Rugby 7s, introduced successfully into the Olympics games at Rio 2016. This has not only increased rugby’s global exposure, but it also means that many Olympic Committees are investing into rugby now too.
Closer to home, last year was a success as Chile defeated rivals from across South America, as well as invitational sides, to lift the 7s trophies at Punta del Este and Viña del Mar, and was awarded an invitational spot at the Hong Kong, Las Vegas, and Vancouver events on the HSBC World Series Sevens Circuit, the highest level of World 7s Rugby.
Although Rugby Chile declined comment with any further details, it has been revealed that Chile will be launching a professional team in the South American Professional league in coming years.
There are still many issues facing Chilean Rugby, but with the big name sponsors such as Banco Bice and Kia on board, the launch of the South American Six Nations and the Americas Rugby Championship, the sky’s the limit for “Los Condores” and Rugby as an inclusive sport in Chile.