It is the game that is bigger than the individual

Last week I talked of the need to structure junior rugby to meet the requirements of fifteen-a-side rugby. This would lead to the requirements of the National team. I also told you about the value system that needs to be driven in to the young rugby player.

The disappointment was that even before the ink dried, on Sunday evening I witnessed the young mind being depraved by adults who could not see their team lose. The question is who is responsible and who is behind and continuing to sell ideas that is not in the best interest of developing and encouraging the sport of rugby among the young.

I was also disappointed to read about the Performance of the National team in Hong Kong. The accusation levelled by the national coach about under performance made me wonder why? Can this happen when we at every nook and corner whether it be a bus stand, kiosk or watering hole talk of country before self?

Lankans in action in Hong Kong

More disappointment was when I read the article to the end .The rejoinder of the sevens team captain I believe opens another can of worms just as we thought the earlier can was being buried with the contents. Now that we continue to wash dirty linen in public what message do we give the followers and newcomers to the game.

When you look at what is happening what is your gut feeling. You don’t need a rocket scientist to give you an answer or what they call the conclusion resulting from laborious research where the problem is conceptualized and hypothesis developed to prove tour point.

The feeling in the gut is one of being let down, frustrated and bored to death as the scenario unfolding in your face does not seem right. Would you feel angry by being let down by the National side or feel pity for the players who seem to be manipulated at both ends. The passion is not where I take the country to but, what helps to satisfy my ego.

The final answer to the equation lies in “club or country”. You may say country comes first.
This is easier said than done. This requires an environment that supports such thinking including the trust and confidence of all. To be picked, as one of the top 22 or 25 players in your country is the highest honour. It makes sense but doesn't quite reflect the reality. This happens as the pride of playing for the country is more remote and intangible than the close, community spirit of the club and the town. At the end of the day success and failure of the national team depends on the feeling you have. How do you set the stage for this?

What is needed is the intensity that you feel at the club level to be taken to the national level. That does not come with a few matches played far and in between as compared to the club game played almost every week end. Every week the club game faces another challenge another game that gets you that much closer. The highs and lows of every week are enough to keep on your toes. The one off yearly disappointment of the national team pales in comparison. So what happens is that you dream with our club .The majority of people come to watch games because their team's a chance of winning every weekend. Some people come to watch certain individuals. To some it is just the club.

We are not alone in this and at the moment. The International Rugby Board (IRB) has had to find a short-term solution to a long-term problem, after threats of a full-scale 'rugby war' between Scotland and England in the ongoing club-versus-country row. IRB officials took on a peacemaker role after Scotland the coach made a formal complaint when English clubs blocked 10 of his stars from joining a national training camp. They are all Premier Rugby: the Union of players who insist they were within their rights and that they are only obliged to release players five days before an agreed quota of Tests.

"PRL have no problem releasing players five days before Test matches. The problem is that Scotland wants releases for squad sessions. Now IRB is talking to all parties to find the best solution. Those parties include the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in England. The IRB have no direct jurisdiction over Premier Rugby but they could advise the RFU to ban Scotland players appearing for their clubs this weekend.

You may argue that in Sri Lanka we have no such problem as clubs have not said no to a release. That’s naïve to be expected to be believed as almost all players pulling out of the squad come from one club. That’s collective action without a formal structure. This has to be addressed to bring a solution. As we know the situation arose with the initial salvo being fired with the appointment of the captain. The question is why do they protest and what can be done to come to a solution. Then there were answers and counters. Now it is up to the bickering parities to find a solution. It is not about who is right or wrong. It is about the game. Nobody should be above the game. Just as IRB is getting ready to wield the big stick somebody may have to do it here too.

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