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Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Quins' Masson predicts Asian influx into rugby union

By Nikesh Rughani
BBC Asian Network

Tajiv Masson
Masson has represented England at Under-21 level

There could soon be an influx of British Asian players into rugby union, according to Tajiv Masson.

The Harlequins centre is the first British Asian to play professional rugby union and expects more to follow.

"In five or seven years (we'll see Asians breaking through)," he told BBC Asian Network.

"It will be the second and third generation of Asians - those who have grown up watching rugby and who are a bit more westernised."

Previously, former England rugby league international Ikram Butt was the only high-profile British Asian to make an impact in professional rugby.

But Masson says things are changing for the better and believes it is mainly because a lot of British Asian children are starting to attend private schools, where rugby is one of the main sports.

If clubs go out specifically to help Asian kids then they could get into playing it more

Tajiv Masson

"They should make the most of it, because it's all there," he added. "They've got training facilities, gyms and they should take full advantage of it."

Milka Basra, a year-seven student from Leicester grammar school, agreed with Masson.

"I play cricket and football too, but I prefer rugby union," said Basra. "I think it's bad that people think Asians can't play rugby."

Basra's coach Troy Thakker has some reservations, however, and has warned that, even though many children show promise at a young age, not many go on to fulfil their potential.

"The percentage (of Asian players) does drop when we get to senior level," he explained. "A lot will go into soccer and study becomes very important."

But Masson, who has represented England at Under-21 level, is confident that British Asians can make the grade if they get the right help.

He added: "If clubs go out specifically to help Asian kids then they could get into playing it more.

"A lot more could be done. If the kids can set themselves realistic goals then there's no reason why they can't achieve them."

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