Nations Rugby on the cards
President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) and outgoing President of Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) Nimal Lewke has pulled off quite a few projects in just a few months. Next year will see the first Asian Five Nations Championship and the launch of the Asian Rugby Football Tournament in two divisions. Plus yet another tournament for the rest of the countries that belong to the Asian Region.
Speaking to The Sunday Times Lewke said: “The Asian Five Nations will see Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Kazakshtan and Arabian Gulf play each other on a home and away basis. The team that finishes bottom of the league will be relegated to Division One of the Asian Rugby Football Tournament. Sri Lanka is currently top of Division One and the other countries are Singapore, China and Chinese Taipei. The top team from Division One will be promoted to the Asian Five Nations after the tournament while the team that finishes at the bottom will be demoted to Division Two which comprises of Malaysia, Thailand, India and Pakistan. Obviously the team that finishes two of Division Two will be promoted to Division One. This tournament will be held every year and as outgoing President of the ARFU I will be making strong case for Sri Lanka to host the tournament since missing out on the Asiad.”
There have been numerous arguments for and against foreigners playing for clubs. When asked, Lewke said: “We have sent a circular to all the clubs asking for their views. However, my recommendation will be that if clubs are to bring foreign players they have to be less than 22 years of age and must be contracted for a minimum of 36 months. During that period they cannot go back to their country of origin. My point is that after three years according IRB rules the individual can play for Sri Lanka. This must be the ultimate goal. What happened earlier was that foreigners come and play, take the money and return to their home country. In addition all the top countries have overseas players representing each team.”
Lewke added: “Much has been made about our loss to Kazakshtan. People have forgotten that just three years ago we were beaten by a similar margin by Thailand. Furthermore this is what we inherited and we have been in office for just around five months. That does not mean we are not doing anything. First I am putting the infrastructure in place which is non existent. In most of the top countries the players are in training all year around. We have not been able to do this. But we hope to rectify that situation as soon as possible. Once everything is in place our headquarters will also have a gymnasium, swimming pool, quarters for accommodation etc. We are also bringing down Keith Roberts to conduct a ‘training for trainers’ programme. In addition one of our overseas representatives Mohan Samarasinghe has managed to acquire the services of top referee Lee Wilson.
Wilson will arrive during the Clifford Cup and will blow at a few matches and also conduct a programme for referees. “By next year any coach of a club or school should be affiliated to the Union and have a Level One Coaching Certificate. We have already sent two referees overseas and one of the reasons why there are mismatches in schools is because the lack of a qualified coach. Schools rugby must be nurtured from the under 13 stage onwards. And good coaches know this,” said Lewke
In conclusion Lewke had some good news for rugby supporters in Galle. “I have spoken to The President and under the Tsunami Relief Programme we are hoping to have a ground and training centre. The training centre will have accommodation for players a fully equipped gymnasium and all the facilities required. This is somewhat on the lines of what Sri Lanka Cricket is doing in Galle,” said Lewke.