Can we bridge or why can’t we?

Sri Lanka got their first boxing gold medalist in 72 years when 31-year-old Manju Wanniarachchi finished on top in the bantamweight category. William Henricus was the last Sri Lankan to win a CWG boxing gold - at the British Empire Games in Sydney in 1938.

The achievement of Manju is something the whole country is proud of. This column too is proud of this fact and wishes the sport more and more success in the future. While boxing has produced an opportunity for pride Rugby despite recent euphoria is scraping the bottom of the barrel. It is a familiar spot that they have got into from time to time.

Referee has a big role to play in any form of rugby

Rugby continues to be under prepared and ill organized when it comes to the big event. We continue to train for a few days and take wing probably with the expectation that something may happen. The approach to preparation for sport is much more advanced with a lot of physical and mental preparation being done and team effort focused on.

A wining team stays together and trains in a managed environment with eyes on the objective they are to achieve. This requires a training pattern which should be carried out right through the year. Otherwise we will be reduced to the statement, “we are happy about the progress made by the players”. There can be no victory if we don’t plan for what we intend to achieve. The approach by others is very professional and we cannot be seen to lag behind. We continue behind as small minds are more interested in little issues losing sight of the bigger picture.

Simply the bigger picture can never be seen if you continue look at your nose as you always look down especially on others. This is myopic and it seems the controlling body is full of it or at least dominated by a few who don’t see beyond their nose while the majority is silent.

To think beyond is to ask what is in it for rugby. We have to face the might of Asia at the A5N due early 2011. Going by the 2010 calendar it should be from or around April. It is important because we have to stay there and stay on top. It is the Council and the Union that will be responsible to have a plan in place with a clear objective. Let us say to be among the first three. Could we do that? Definitely we could if we plan for it.

Let me not talk of the physical and mental work that has to go in and can be done only if there is a pool of players in preparation. Sri Lanka I believe will not have any 15-a-side exposure prior to the tournament. It will and must have practice by playing against other countries. First, one must wipe away the petty rivalry issues and work toward achievement of the national team. Then one needs the fund to keep a team together. Can we do it as we hear the oft repeated quote “there are no funds?”

We also need to play against countries so that we will be used to the new vigilance on interpretations of the laws to allow more flow of the game. IRB concentrated on five areas and are likely to add five more areas by the end of the year. This has been conveyed in a letter sent In September to all member unions by the Head of External and member services of the IRB.

The Head of IRB Referee Board said there were five areas where referees were asked to be more vigilant. There are not changes in the law, but details that have not been refereed as well as they could be. These are issues that are common over the rugby globe. These include -Offside around the breakdown -• Offside players after kicks-• Illegal Maul Formation-• Slowing down of the scrum sequence • Strict application of the Tackle Law.

The IRB expects to add the following to the list -• intentionally sealing off of the ball by teams in possession at the breakdown thereby preventing a contest. • Illegal entry and cleaning out by players ahead of the ball carrier at the breakdown.-• Refereeing of the Receiver at the lineout-• Equal refereeing of both sides at the Maul-• Scrum Feeds-• Inconsistency in the awards of Yellow Cards.

We need to play more and more under these conditions that have been lax in the past. It has been common expectation to say, “can we bridge or why can’t we?” There being no mention in the law book on bridging there is reference now to prevent sealing. Similarly there is advice to slow down the scrum engagement process with the aim of reducing collapses. The issue of fringing at rucks and mauls reduces the attacking teams options and will now be looked at more closely. These are few examples of the ten areas that are required to be more supervised by the referees. There are many things that have to be done when you face competition at the top.

Boxing achieved the Gold and there was a face of a passionate man behind. Despite facing odds at times he pursued his passion. Rugby needs that to stay afloat. Dian Gomes as I know is an ardent lover of rugby. He can never be the passionate one for the game as we need somebody who needs to have played rugby at club level. The professional background of Dian is being an accountant. There is a function within Rugby that requires that background. Perhaps that is the face that could adorn that part of the game’s administration.

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

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