ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday November 18, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 25

We will do well at the Youth Asiad - Lewke

By Harry Jayachandra

Nimal Lewke

"I was at the first trial. I believe we have a good chance of winning the Under 20 Youth Asiad and thus qualifying for the Youth World Cup," said Nimal Lewke, President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) in an interview with The Sunday Times. Lewke added: "We have some good material to work with. Japan has already qualified. Thus they are not playing. The Asiad which will be played in Brunei from December 13 to 21, with all the games scheduled to finish between December 14 and 20. The Asiad itself is split into two groups. The first group will play for the Asia Cup Division One, while the second for the Asia Trophy Division two. We will be playing for the Cup and are ranked number four behind Hong Kong, Malaysia and Korea. The other teams in our group are Thailand, Singapore and Guam. The eight and final team has not been named yet as the tournament will be conducted on a knockout basis."

He added: "We are talking a lot of interest in this squad because obviously, this group is the feeder system for the national grid. As for the recently concluded historic Asiad, many agree it was a major success. We came very close to defeating the number four ranked team in Asia namely Kazakshstan. Rugby is a power game and we will select eight players. These players will go through a rigorous three month training period. Everything will be provided for them. This because the one thing we learnt from the Asiad is that we need more power in the scrums and line outs. Skills wise we are as good as anybody."

Lewke pointed that even the International Rugby Board (IRB) representatives were very happy with the way the tournament was conducted and the number of games that went down to the wire. The Asiad was historic in that the format changes from next year. The top five in Asia will compete in separate tournament while Sri Lanka will play in Division One alongside China, Singapore and Chinese Taipei. If Sri Lanka were to win the tournament they would progress to the Asian Five Nations.

"When this administration took over in March, we barely had any time to prepare the national team. This I believe was one of the main reasons why lost a couple of qualifiers. Now we have the time. If you take the Singer International Sevens, we came very close to a historic triumph. From now onwards we are preparing for the Hong Sevens. I have already written to Japan asking for a coach and hopefully their response will be positive. We have given up the practice of having seven runners.

There has to be at least three 'big boys' as well. And the most encouraging factor is that we have advanced up the ladder in both 15's and sevens with young players. If you take the team that played in the Asiad, the majority of the players were below the age of 25. This in turn augurs well for the future of Sri Lankan rugby," said Lewke in conclusion.

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