ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 14

Fairplay, respect and camaraderie

Dr. Syd Millar

September will start a busy calendar for rugby lovers all over the world. The Sixth Rugby World Cup gets underway in France from the 7th September to the 20th of October. The Games will have twenty nations contesting in 48 matches played over 44 days. The winners will receive the William Webb Ellis Cup. Despite all the nice things and the expectation from the game that Ellis started it, has been thought fit for the IRB to issue a letter on expectations of discipline.

The IRB Chairman Dr. Syd Millar has written a formal letter to each and every Rugby World Cup team reminding them of disciplinary responsibilities during the tournament, particularly with regard to dissent. It has been acknowledged that there has been an increase in high-profile outbursts from coaches at referees. A case in particular is French Coach Laporte’s verbal attack on Stuart Dickinson in a New Zealand hotel foyer in June.

IRB Referees Manager Paddy O'Brien in his comments has given the assurance of protecting the referees. His statement reported in the columns of ‘The Guardian’ on Thursday, as saying both coaches and players were under stern observation over their conduct on the field.

"We want them to know we won't tolerate it," said O'Brien. "People throwing their arms up at decisions or rushing in, like they do in other sports ... we don't want that. We accept there is pressure on players and coaches but we've had enough of referees being blamed for everything. We think it's time for people to start looking in the mirror. I am determined that the World Cup will be won by the best team on the paddock, not in newspaper columns and certainly not by a coach running bleating to a newspaper." However, Millar's letter reminded the teams that, despite all the fine margins involved and the potential for dissatisfaction, the importance of this tournament was to the wider game and the need to maintain the old principles of "fair play, mateship and respect".

O'Brien is confident the message will be heeded.

"The only worry I have is that our referees are accurate," said the New Zealander. "I'd hate to see a World Cup won by an inaccurate decision, although you have to bear in mind that we're dealing with humans. They can only do their best." The direction and the contents should be words of wisdom and food for thought for people who rush with pen and paper making accusations and statements at the drop of a hat. At times these statements are commented giving a degree of credence by those who should be protecting other officials. The concern and commitment at the top level should be taken as an example to know what is expected by the code of conduct. Issues are there and these have to be solved. Behavior of dissent has no place in the game as the statements issued for and behalf of the controlling body suggests. The importance is that the game achieves what it is intended for. That is of being a sport for all: while maintaining the unique character that is expected.

In Sri Lanka the Singer Sri Lankan Sevens will be kicked off in Kandy for the ninth time. This being an IRB satellite event will see many of the Asian teams participating. The tournament unlike other sevens played in the region is to provide an annual ARFU member union sevens competition. What is important is the opportunity for Asian teams to play against each other. The absence of Japan begs to ask the question what is the purpose without Japan taking part. On the other hand Japan did not take part last year too. Possibly Japan being already in the world circuit wants to concentrate more in that section. They are playing in the 2007 World Cup and the players would be committed for that.

The tournament can still go on as it did last year. The crowds of Kandy who are passionate rugby supporters will have another opportunity to witness some good sevens rugby. Rumours were circulating the tournament will be played in Colombo this year. This has remained a rumour possibly disappointing some. In the words of the sponsors the preference of Kandy is because of the passion for the game in that part of the country.

This is a good enough reason for the sponsors who will want the maximum mileage. As a destination Kandy has more to offer the visitor. Arguments may go for and against. The Singer Sri Lanka sevens will be played next week. The schools without some big names will also participate in sevens meant for them as in the previous years. See you in Colombo next week. Ooops! Sorry see you in Kandy. Be there to be part of the fun and also to cheer the Sri Lankan team.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.