Lessons from Carlton sevens

The week was good in patches. I have heard of a dictum issued by the men who sit on rugby matters around the world. This is in relation to rugby in Sri Lanka. They have stressed on the need to have an elected body in place.

During the weekend, rugby enthusiasts saw the magic of the likes of William Ryder and the Fijian team at the Sugathadasa Stadium. Ryder thrilled the crowds who dared to be present with some breath taking runs as he romped home as the leading try scorer of the International event while they beat South African Vipers very comfortably in the final.

Japan the powerhouse of Asian Rugby signed off with victory in the Asian region rugby sevens series, annexing the Carlton Rugby Sevens tournament defeating Malaysia 26-7 in the final. Japan had already won the inaugural IRB event - the Asian sevens series when they claimed the Shanghai “Sevens” last month.

St. Peter’s College won the school title beating Royal College in a tense final. This last game as well as the semifinals played between Royal and St. Anthony’s and Isipathana and St. Peters has proved to be exciting events.

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan match last weekend (pic by Ranjith Perera)

The disappointment of the week was the Sri Lankan team, which won both matches on the first day. Yet they managed to be where they have been in the recent past. That is a loser on day two. They lost to Kazakhstan in the cup quarters and to Thailand in the plate semi finals. The poor showing by the host team took away some shine off a tournament that produced some quality moments. The talented Sri Lankan side, which beat Korea on day one never, played as a team but depended on individual performance. This did not take the team very far when it came to sustaining performance. Without adequate practice, there cannot be expectations of continued achievement at the top level. The administrators at this stage must put their heads together and plan. The team, which has talent, must stay together with more additions and practice with a coach who stays with the team: Not somebody who comes and goes off after one event. Putting the heads together is a tough call, as there seems to be neither head nor heart (passion) by some who think we manage rugby and want to be heard as they make statements one after another.

The Fijians, Kiwis, South Africans, Australians together with the men from Papua and Samoa dazzled. The schoolboys from Sri Lanka impressed with some good rugby. One heard legendary ‘Serevi’ saying… these boys have talent. The question is what happens to them as they grow up and come to the national level. It sure is time for somebody to stand up and say ‘Go, for God sake GO.’ Let the youth have a future.
While the games had some great moments of rugby played by great men, the attendance was not very encouraging. Is it because the game is dying and or is a write off in the minds of the spectators? Unless and until some people can see beyond their noses rugby will not have its moments of glory.

Ask this question as we go along in the hope that the tournament will continue in the future possibly with saner people in administration who will at least remember the stakeholders of the game, which also include the past administrators. One cannot expect the popularization of the game and the tournament unless we see the stakeholders at least present to watch the matches. I say this as I failed to see neither Provincial Heads (other than the man from Ruhuna), Club Presidents nor past Presidents of the SLRFU at this event. This is something the interim body must ask as they take stock for the future. You cannot shift the blame and or blame others.

News as I have gathered from reliable sources is that the World Governing body wanted an assurance from the Sri Lankan Interim body that an elected council will be in place; if not Sri Lanka will have to face the consequences. The answer was required in less that 72 hours as the big boys were to meet. The assurance was that elections would be before end of February. If not we will reach a “Pariah “status in the International rugby scene. To some it may not matter as they will not understand the difference of having a name and a game that gives status.

I have come to understand from reliable sources that Asanga Seneviratne who attended the IRB meeting had given an assurance that the elected body will be in place before March 2010. Asanga, I understand, has received an assurance that Sri Lanka will get funds for development. Yet the Rider: when the elected body is in place. The assurance is they will give the amounts not paid in 2009 and what is due in 2010. “OHOMA YANG “( Let us go along)

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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