China’s $100M rugby revolution gathers pace

Updated 6:52 AM EDT, Fri April 7, 2017
21 Oct 1998:  The Chinese national rugby team front row during a training feature in Guangzhou, Japan.  \ Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport
David Rogers/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
21 Oct 1998: The Chinese national rugby team front row during a training feature in Guangzhou, Japan. \ Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport
Now playing
02:34
Waking the sleeping dragon of rugby in China
Now playing
22:52
World Rugby: The rise of North American rugby
Now playing
01:22
'A love of hamburgers and a royal connection''
Now playing
02:18
Dan Norton: Rugby's all-time top try-scorer
Now playing
01:52
Madness at the Hong Kong 7s
Now playing
23:11
CNN World Rugby: Singapore and Hong Kong
Now playing
01:36
Could you do this rugby training work-out?
Now playing
01:47
Scotland do the Dizzy Drop-Goal Challenge
Now playing
23:02
CNN World Rugby: Wellington and Sydney
Now playing
06:56
Joost van der Westhuizen: South Africa legend
Now playing
22:52
Fiji's golden fairytale: Rugby's greatest story?
Now playing
02:37
Baber: Fiji job 'once in a lifetime chance'
Now playing
01:42
Seven Deadly Skills: Line breaks
Now playing
01:31
Seven Deadly Skills: Gareth Baber on tackling
Now playing
01:52
Seven Deadly Skills with Gareth Baber - Passing
Now playing
01:20
Can you do the 'Knuckey'?
Now playing
04:32
Rugby concussion rule 'not fit for purpose'
Now playing
01:32
The 'Rugby Cranes' on the rise
Now playing
03:42
New hall of fame honors rugby's heroes
Now playing
02:42
Ben Ryan's Sevens World Series guide
Now playing
01:35
Bryan Habana: The excitement of sevens
Now playing
01:01
New Zealand celebrates Dubai 7s win with haka
Now playing
03:09
World Rugby CEO reveals global ambition

Story highlights

$100M to be invested in next 10 years

Ambitions to host the Rugby World Cup

(CNN) —  

China is making headlines with its stratospheric spending on global football stars – but is it also undergoing a rugby revolution?

“The numbers in China are obviously mind-boggling,” World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper tells CNN. “As a nation, it’s the No. 1 target not just for sport but all businesses.

“We have a fixed objective of one million players in 10 years, but that’s being readjusted by the federation to five years I believe. That’s a pretty meteoric rise.”

A year ago, it had 76,000 rugby players. In 2016, another 60,000 Chinese were introduced to the oval-ball sport, and officials there hope for as many as a million players in five years.

The country’s politicians and sporting powers are keen on a quick step to rugby hegemony. A $100 million deal to market rugby in China was signed in October, and the effects of the long-term project are already beginning to be felt.

“Nowadays, a lot more people in China recognize the beauty of rugby,” Cui Weihong, secretary-general of the China Rugby Football, told CNN.

“That’s why we’re continuously trying to push for the progressive development of rugby in China.”

As its population approaches 1.5 billion – roughly 20% of the world’s total – it is understandable that World Rugby is leaping at the chance for the game to conquer the territory. But is it really possible to achieve such a gargantuan rise in playing numbers in such a short space of time?