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Meet the Scrumdog Millionaire

A street kid from India has been dubbed the 'Scrumdog Millionaire' after his remarkable talent at rugby won him a scholarship to a top British sports academy.

Full-back and winger Sailen Tudu, 20, was flown to the UK by former England captain Phil Vickery after he was spotted playing barefoot on wasteland with street scavengers in Calcutta.

Mr Vickery was so impressed he put Sailen forward for a prestigious sports scholarship at posh Hartpury College in Gloucestershire.

After wowing the college with his skills and attitude he secured a four-year £40,000 scholarship to study for a National Diploma in Sport.

Sailen - who only touched a rugby ball for the first time in 2005 - has now been capped several times for India's national side and is tipped for a professional career.

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 was brought up in the remote village of Bhengam in Bankuru, where he shared a mud-hut house with his parents and two older sisters.

But he moved 200 miles away to Calcutta when his dad, Sudhir Chandra Tudu, 65, started a new job as a policeman in 2005.

He began playing rugby with a group of local children on a rubbish-strewn patch of grass in the slums.

Within weeks he was spotted by Paul Walsh - a former diplomat from the British High Commission - who had formed a rugby team of street kids called the Jungle Crows.

He quickly became the team's star player and then quit school to play in several minor Indian competitions and was selected to the play for the national under-19 side, ranked 83rd in the world.

In 2007, Mr Walsh flew Sailen to England where he met Mr Vickery - whose clothing firm Raging Bull sponsors Hartpury College, which is part of the University of the West of England.

Mr Vickery helped the fly-half with a scholarship to study a diploma in sport focusing on Rugby, which started in 2008 and finishes in 2012.

Sailen, who now plays with Gloucestershire side Longlevens RFC, now hopes to play in the Asian five nations on June 2.

Sailen, who has two sisters Sarala, 23, and Kanika, 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.’ 

Mr 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.’

Mr Vickery's business partner Richard Yorke, who lets Sailen stay with at 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 achieved 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.’ 

Sailen's dad Sudhir Chandra Tudu, 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.’

Taken from the Mail Online

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