A street kid from the slums of India is being tipped for rugby stardom after former England captain Phil Vickery spotted the lad dubbed – SCRUM DOG millionaire.
Full-back and winger Sailen Tudu, 20, was playing in his bare feet on wasteland with street scavengers in Calcutta in 2007.
But Vickery was tipped-off about Sailen’s speed and flew to India to see him play a match with local side the ‘Jungle Crows’.
Incredibly, Vickery was so impressed he put Sailen forward to study a prestigious sport scholarship at Hartpury College, Glos.
Sailen has now been capped several times for India’s national side despite only seeing a rugby ball for the first time in 2004.
He said: ”I first watched these kids play touch rugby with cones on wasteland and I was amazed.
”They asked me to join in and I played in my bare feet for a few months. But I loved the speed and thrill of the game.
”Now I’m playing alongside some of the finest sportsmen in Europe. It’s incredible. I’m so lucky.
”I came from a tribal village in the mountains with no running water or electricity, no books, where Rugby is unheard of.
”The people there some of the poorest in India.
”Now I’m the only Indian student on the course at Hartpury. They call me ‘the Bollywood Star’ or ‘the Beast from the East’.”
Sailen moved to Calcutta from mountain village Bankuru when his dad Sudhir Chandra Tudu(corr), 65, started a new job with the police in 2005.
He spotted the Jungle Crows team – expatriates and street kids – practising on rubbish-strewn patch of grass in the slums.
Sailen impressed the Jungle Crows founder Paul Walsh – a former diplomat from the British High Commission – and became the team’s star player.
The 70kg star quit school to play in several minor Indian competitions in where the national team are ranked No83 in the world.
Walsh flew Sailen to England in 2007 where he met Vickery – whose firm Raging Bull sponsors Hartpury College.
Vickery helped the fly-half with a scholarship to study a diploma in sport focusing on Rugby which started in 2008.
Sailen, who plays with local side Longlevens RFC, in Longlevens, Glos., now hopes to play in the Asian five nations on June 2.
Sailen, who has two sisters Sarala(corr), 23, and Kanika(corr), 22, added:
”I’m really looking forward to playing as much rugby as I can and I want to win more caps.
”Rugby’s a great sport but it isn’t that well known in India. Thankfully that’s starting to change.”
Vickery said: ”I have been fortunate to achieve some awesome things in rugby but what Tudu has achieved is incredible.
”I’m passionate about grassroots rugby and his story takes you back to the roots of the game. It’s a fantastic story.”
Vickery’s business partner Richard Yorke, who lets Sailen stay with at the weekends, added: ”He’s like a son to me now. He’s a great person and it’s pleasure to have him.
”You see films like Slumdog Millionaire and I think that Sailen has acheived more than that because he’s come from a situation where he had nothing.
”I think that’s bigger and better than Slumdog Millionaire- he’s the Scrumdog Millionaire.”
Dad Sudhir Chandra Tudu(corr), a retired assistant policeman , said: ”Sailen loved sport, and I always encouraged him to do what he liked.
”But rugby? He didn’t even know that such a game existed.
”One day Mr Walsh came to our house and sought my permission to send Sailen to Pakistan for a tournament. We were all so happy.
”He was one of the best players there and played a key role in defeating Pakistan. Everyone in the village is so proud of Sailen.”
Hartpury College principal Malcolm Wharton said: ”We felt it would be good to support a player who showed promise from a country not traditionally known for playing the game.”