ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 9, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 15

Kandy Sevens, World Cup what more do you want?

A giant inflatable rugby ball hangs from the Eiffel tower in Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007. Paris will light up from Thursday, Sept. 6 the Eiffel Tower to look like goal posts as part of six weeks of festivities to welcome the Rugby World Cup teams and fans to France. Officials are expecting 2.4 million ticket-holders alone for the tournament.

The Singer Sri Lankan sevens started in 1999 with ten teams from Asia taking part. The winners in the inaugural tournament were Korea and in 2000 it was Chinese Taipei. In 2001 the tournament was made open with some teams from Europe as well as teams from Africa taking part. In 2004 the tournament was centered on Asian region rugby playing countries. These times around the governing body for the sport recognized this as a sattellite event. The IRB recognition stamps the acceptance. In 2006 it was also the forerunner to the selection of teams for the IRB sevens rugby word cup. Sri Lanka was Plate champions on 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Besides the rugby a tournament of this nature is expected to transform Kandy into a weekend party, with the cheering crowds and carnival atmosphere. Singer as well as Sri Lankan Airlines have been involved in the tournament from the start and have been the driving force besides the men from Kandy. The IRB recognition also meant that the governing body has a say and provides financial support for the game. We have come far in the recognition of the Sri Lanka event. In this background the last minute frenzied efforts to convince countries to participate leads to ask why. Why is a tournament that has been run for as long as nine years was left in the balance? To an outsider the security situation needs to be considered. Yet can one give a guaranteed assurance in any part of the world that there is no element of risk. The issue is not to dig deep to find out who was responsible and point fingers. What is now needed is to take stock of the situation and work towards getting commitment of teams to participate in the Asiad that is planned for November. The need is also to get involved from now and cement the bonds to host the event for the tenth time come 2008.

The centre stage else where is the Rugby World Cup. France is high on rugby fever. This is the first time that the world cup is being played in a non English speaking country. The French believe that rugby can do what their footballers did at home in 1998 by winning the world cup. France will win the world cup and this is what the French want to believe. France has over the years proved that on their day they can beat any team in the world. In the past, they' have failed at the last mile. Can they succeed on home soil?

Though the French seem optimistic after their wins over Wales and England it is not going to be an easy task. Everybody have their eyes on the pie. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are all geared up to get the plum. There are others such As England, Wales, and Ireland who are also focused. The All Blacks have the odds favoring them .At their best they find them selves a t the top of the teams that can beat them. Through 2005 and 2006 All Blacks were at their best. The notion of could be defeated commenced as they managed to beat South Africa just by one point in the 2006 Tri- Nations series. And then it happened. They suffered a 20-15 defeat to Australia in this year's Tri-Nations. Have the All Blacks peaked too soon was the question that was asked.

Can you hold this against their ability to win the cup? They have still won the Tri-Nations three times in succession and inflicted heavy home defeats on France and England. Over the last three years, New Zealand has produced some of the best rugby that has ever been played. But on the field, there are perhaps areas they are weaker than other aspects of their play.

The line-out is one area where they are not hot at contesting the ball and give the advantage to the Opposition. They are not as strong in comparison to the set scrums. Uncertainty has also arisen with centre Umaga's retirement. The All Blacks however has a formidable pack, boasting the world's finest front row and a capable back row who have contested the breakdown fiercely.
Whichever country that wins the cup will require above all the ability to withstand the intense pressure that is put to them by the fans through expectation. That can be their undoing. This will require being able to overcome the fear of failure .When the possibility of defeat becomes a reality; character is the only thing that can see a team through. It is the character and quality of the players on the pitch that determines whether a side survives those moments. Are the All Blacks a truly great team? Or is it some other team?

The proof of who will have the quality and the character to make a difference will be known in six weeks.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.