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Rugby star in drive for funds

ONE of Australia's greatest rugby players, John Eales, helped launch a fundraising drive yesterday for a new sports facility in Pudong's Waigaoqiao area.

The 85,000-square-meter project would have four rugby pitches, an international-sized cricket ground, tennis courts and a football pitch. The "Field of Dreams" project also has provisions for recreational facilities and clubrooms.

Eales spoke at a charity lunch organized by the Shanghai Rugby Football Club, which moved to the first phase of the project midway through last year. The club is aiming to raise 3 million yuan (US$438,924).

Eales told the audience that "rugby boots were their international passport" and that rugby had the unique ability to build communities in the 120 countries and areas it was played in around the world.

The project will cater for a range of sports including Australian rules football, touch rugby, Gaelic football, and ultimate frisbee and be home to Shanghai's Hairy Crabs Rugby Union team.

"Rugby clubs are in some ways a virtual thing, there could be no facilities and the Hairy Crabs would still exist," Eales said. "But when there are facilities it gives a central focus and it's a great cause to rally around."

SRFC manager Ashley Jones said the facility would be able to cater for international sporting events with crowds of up to 10,000.


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