Saturday and Sunday the 4th and 5th of October will be the week that Hong Kong play hosts to the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 Asian Qualifier. The Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 Asian Qualifier will see men’s and women’s sevens national teams in action during the same tournament. Twelve men’s teams and nine women’s teams from around the region will take part:
Men’s Teams by IRB ranking are Japan, Korea. Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Singapore, India and Guam while the Women’s by IRB ranking are Kazakhstan, China, Japan, Thailand, Arabian Gulf, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Chinese Taipei.
The rankings have been determined by the IRB based on results in major international and regional sevens competition over the past two seasons which goes back to the 2006 Asian Games Sevens in Doha. Other ranking events include results on the IRB Sevens World Series including the Hong Kong Sevens and, Sevens events like the Kandy International Sevens.
Many pitfalls are at hand if Sri Lanka rugby does not iron out its differences. Pictures show Lankan team in action at the Kandy sevens. ( Pic by Ranjith Perera)
In the men’s category, Japan, winner of the 2006 Asian Games gold medal is ranked as the tournament’s top seed; Korea, the silver medalist in Doha, is seeded second. Hong Kong, winners of the Kandy International Sevens in 2007, who have also beaten Japan and Korea in the past two Hong Kong Sevens, is ranked third, while the fourth seed is China, bronze medalist at the Asian Games --Malaysia, winners of the 2008 Kandy Sevens are fifth. The stage is set for an interesting battle with Japan, Korea and Hong Kong expected to battle for the first two slots. It seems looking at recent performance in the sevens Hong Kong are up in the front with a real chance. Meanwhile getting ready to be recognized in this region as real evens contender is Malaysia. Malaysia who is way below in rankings in the fifteen a side game is a dark horse in the s evens. It looks as though rugby in Malaysia is getting more and more exciting: especially in the shorter version of the game.
Japan head Pool A along with Kazakhstan and Thailand In the Tournament Draw for the World Cup Rugby Sevens Asian Men’s Qualifier Pool B features Korea, Chinese Taipei and Singapore. Pool C matches the hosts Hong Kong against Sri Lanka and India. Pool D fourth sees China facing an in-form Malaysia, winners of the Kandy Sevens earlier this month and Guam .The Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union has automatically qualified as the tournament hosts in 2009 and therefore the fight is for the other two slots to be filled by Asia. At the end of the pool stage the battle will be between leaders of pool A and D and Pool B and C Teams have been at work in order to claim their place in the world cup and in preparation, the Hong Kong team travelled to Dubai for a triangular tournament with the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan. Rugby World Cup Qualifiers will start with Hong Kong playing against India on Saturday, 4 October8. Hopeful China and Malaysia will not find it easy as they proceed to the next round having to contend with Japan.
Having been drawn into a pool with Hong Kong and India what will it be for Sri Lanka? Result and performance will be a reflection of the outcome of bickering and the petty approach we take when it comes to the national team. Some may laugh while others may cry but it will be the game that suffers.
If our team which may have suffered mentally does not pull off a couple of tricks out of their bags it will be slots down in ranking. Much worse will be the fifteen a side to be played in November. If we don’t make it above the fourth out of four teams then we go down to the next level. What will it be for the domestic tournaments? To me it is another ugly dimension added to a sport that was once thought of as a game where the spirit was considered important and which involved gentleman and not just men.
We often see sports as a way of bringing a nation together. It's a rallying cry to the world, and it allows us as human beings to show our pride through athletic achievement Is rugby in Sri Lanka treading a dangerous path of dividing than uniting.
Have we taken allegiance too far? Are allegiance and or obsessed behavior undermining the game at national level? Of course, it depends on who you are and who is saying and or doing what. Most sportsmen hate politics, yet when players get involved it does not augur well for the game. Then who is setting the bad example. No prizes for the correct answer.
- Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB