Rugby football is set to hit the high spots in the coming years. The Carlton Rugby Sevens to be held in Kandy on May 26 and 27 will be the forerunner for this. The details of this planned rugby revival was spelt out by national rugby player Namal Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament and Director of the Carlton Sports Club. Namal captained the S. Thomas’ rugby XV in 2005 and has been turning out for Navy in local competitions.
Namal was a member of the Sri Lanka rugby contingent that took part in the Asian Five Nations Championships held in the Philippines which was led by Namal’s younger brother Yoshitha. Sri Lanka was beaten by the Philippines in the final. The Philippine side had a host of experienced and well proportioned half-philippinos which proved to be too much for the young Sri Lankan side.
“The first leg of the Carlton Sevens will be held in Kandy but the event will be of a low key affair as we will be trespassing on sacred grounds with the Dalada Maligawa being situated there. The Second Leg of the Carlton Sevens will be in Colombo on June 2 and 3 at the Police Grounds in Bambalapitiya. Here a grand event is being planned with Indian actresses and singers billed to entertain the public. Shankar Mahadevan, a famous Indian Singer and Tamil Film Director is billed to appear at the Colombo Carlton Sevens and it is hoped that Sri Lanka’s Umariya will sing a duet with him,” said Namal.
Namal spoke in endearing terms of next year’s Carlton Sevens which will be held in Galle and Colombo. “We are planning to have next year’s competition on a grand scale in Galle. Of course one part of the competition will always be in Colombo. Plans are also afoot to take the contest to Dambulla, Kilinochchi and Jaffna in the coming years after that.
Namal said that next year’s Colombo Carlton Sevens Colombo segment is being planned to be held at the Colombo Race Course. “The Race Course Grounds are being developed, as you may have noticed and the Royal Grounds too will be accommodated. The mini-rugby competitions, the over 40 tournament and the Carlton Sevens will have ample room at these grounds. If we are short of grounds the adjoining Bloomfield grounds too will be taken for the competitions. Of course there will be a carnival atmosphere at these competitions and there will be loads of entertainment for all concerned with rugby being the main attraction.
According to Namal there is no shortage of sponsors and they will be holding separate press conferences to announce their involvement with Carlton Sevens. Mobitel and Sri Lanka Insurance are some of the key sponsors for this year’s event.
Speaking on the referees for the competitions Namal said that a host of international referees will be coming for the tournament. “There were complaints that that our local referees were not up to standard last year. That is why we decided to get international referees,” pointed out Namal.
According to Namal the Uva team will be very strong with the New Zealand Sevens skipper, their center three quarter and winger turning out for them. All international players will be paid according to International Rugby Board (IRB) ratings. “Last year even the local players were paid at the rate of Rs. 5,000 a day and on the whole they made about Rs. 100,000 from the competition. This is a big thing for our local lads. Some of them are very poor and for the competition last year we provided them with boots, deck shoes and jerseys.
“So it is going to be several hectic and exciting days of Sevens Rugby at the Carlton Sevens this year. Some of the world’s leading, amounting to 40, have already confirmed their participation. The organizers had targeted May/June for the Sri Lanka Sevens because the World Rugby Sevens ends in April and all the world class players will be in a position to come to the island.
Namal also said that from Sri Lanka the scene will shift to the Asian Sevens which starts in June. “I have also held discussions with SLRFU President Asanga Seneviratne regarding this and in all probability Sri Lanka too will be part of the Asian Sevens which will start with the Borneo Sevens.
Speaking about the Asian Rugby Championships in the Philippines where Sri Lanka lost to the host team, Namal said that the young Sri Lanka team showed a lot of character. Added to the team had trained together as a unit for close upon five years. We too should do the same. If we start right now maybe we can qualify for the 2019 World Cup to be held in Japan,” said Namal.
Kandy SC will not be sending their players for the Carlton Sevens. Namal said that the organizers of the Carlton Sevens will not plead with them to release the players. “Kandy has about four or five good Sevens players. But they have not represented the country. Club politics has to end if we are to forge ahead,” was Namal’s view.
Former Sri Lanka rugby coach George Simpkin, a New Zealander, is the advisor for the Carlton Sevens.