Only a few get to live their dreams and only they know what it is during the times of failing and rising up. 22-year-old rugby player-cum-coach, Shanmugam Chinna is living his dream in Chennai.

About his heroes and formative years

Shanmugam is a passionate rugby player who just took up the sport two years ago. He is no different from us when it comes to having favourite heroes. He is a fan of Arul Venkatesh’s running, skills and leadership. To reach his dreams, his mentor Arul Venkatesh plays a vital role.

He said in a recent interview with Fisto Sports that he has taught him everything about rugby and it was in his coaching that he had started playing the sport.

“Not since childhood, but I started playing Rugby only from my 12th, when it was introduced in my school, Thoraipaakkam Government Higher Secondary, OMR.”

“I used to watch the team play and wonder how the team came out victorious every time they went on for a tournament, even for little-known sports like rugby,” Shanmugam said when asked on how he got into the sport.

He was also quite good in running which made things a little easier for him when he got selected for Tamil Nadu senior squad and made great strides in a very short time.


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Playing career

The 22-year-old had a promising start to his rugby career when he made his professional debut at the South Zone in 2017. After a series of impressive shows, he was selected to play the All-India Punjab Nationals and he had also been sent for the national camping.

Shanmugam credits a lot of his skill to his coach Arul Venkatesh, who helped him improve since he joined the team.

“Though Rugby is a developing game, there has been a huge change in terms of how the sport of rugby has evolved in the state, over the years.”

“I got opportunities to travel to cities like Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Telangana and Mumbai. And I gained additional exposure of sorts, which helped me massively in many ways,” Shanmugam said.

On coaching

Clearly a self-starter, with the matches rapidly approaching and the trainer temporarily unavailable, Shanmugam stepped in to take a session in 2018 for the Tamil Nadu’s U-14, U-17 and U-18 boys and girls team and leading the U-14 girl’s team to an important South India Tourney Gold, which they wound up winning 32-25 against Bengaluru in the finals.

He also took them to 5th ranking and a place in the Goa Nationals, which is scheduled to begin in November 2019.

Shanmugam along with being a rugby player is also a wannabe coach. Currently, he is aiming to complete the level-1 coaching certificate which is recognized by the International Rugby Code.

This vibrant player is very enthusiastic about coaching. “My aim is to excel at Rugby, in addition to giving excellent coaching support to young, upcoming players,” he says.

Shanmugam’s message to young rugby players is to excel in the sport and keep playing.

“We have played a number of games for Tamil Nadu; it is always good to be recognized when playing for our State and winning medals for it.”

One of the most interesting things I came across in Tamil Nadu is the participation of the girls in rugby. The U-14 team in Tamil Nadu is probably one of the best in India and was winners in the All India tournament in 2018.

“This year we are aiming high at the Goa Nationals. We noticed that Tamil Nadu has a very good set of skilled players, especially the U-14 girl’s team. They are a strong team, but they lack communication. Till the U-14 category, the game of rugby is a touch game and after that a contact game. And in 7s, Tamil Nadu is one of the best, but as a team, we miss out a few areas, especially speed and body weight, which are extremely important for rugby.”

“The children are always excited and enthusiastic to play rugby and the teachers give them adequate time to play. In fact, even if they are unwell and can’t play, they make it a point to attend the training sessions.”

Future plans

When asked about his future plans, Shanmugam replies that he always want to stay connected with Rugby. Along with that, he wants to do something with sports and/or fitness.

“Rugby is seen to be one of the most intense physical sports in the world. And there’s a big culture difference when you compare India to other playing countries. People are getting to know about it slowly. But it’s begun developing and more people are getting to know about Rugby in the country.”

When being asked how do you think the sport will improve in the next few years: “It all starts with creating awareness among the younger generation about the sport. We have the Indian governments’ support now. More and more people are getting to know about it and in a few years, there will be Rugby leagues in all the schools and colleges in India which will get more people interested in it.”


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