Former Scotland coach Frank Hadden speaks on Sri Lankan rugby

Sri Lankan backs were skillful and quick against Singapore
By Naushad Amit

Former Scotland rugby coach Frank Hadden who is on a coaching tour in association with Asian Rugby Football Union and Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank said he was highly impressed by the brand of rugby the Sri Lankans display.

“I presented Sri Lanka with the Division I Trophy in Singapore last year. I was very impressed with their performance, it was the first time I ever came across Sri Lankan rugby. I thought they played the game with very good awareness against Singapore. They dished out with a performance that conveyed how rich their rugby tradition is.”

Frank Hadden. Pix by Sanka Vidanagama

“Sri Lanka made very good decisions in the pitch at all kinds of situations at the Division I final last year. I have been looking forward since then for the opening game of the Asia 5 Nation. I personally feel the Asia 5Nation is extremely important for Sri Lankan rugby. Their school is good, the club structure is very strong and now what they need is the international level to kick off and lead the way to develop and grow even bigger in this country. The potential in Sri Lanka for rugby is enormous,” Hadden who coached Scotland to famous victories against England and France told the Sunday Times.

Hadden who coached the Scots from 2005 to 2009 and helped them attain the highest level in international rugby has assessed Sri Lanka’s progress in the global arena. However he thinks that Sri Lanka will have to work hard and commit themselves to the highest level to better their ranking status in the International Rugby Board standings.

“I think that’s a long way away. But they need to work slowly and expect only slow progress. What they need to is to be exposed to the international level. The club level here is really good. Personally I think Sri Lanka should sneak into the domestic levels of other leading countries and try to encourage its players to play in other parts of the world. The players are good enough and if they get the opportunity to play at the higher level they will progress even faster,” Hadden who is a spot reader of the game added.

Hadden has been with the Scotland rugby team in their ups and downs but he was one of the vital reasons to help the side reach among the top ten rugby playing teams internationally. Scotland who once struggled at the bottom adopted professionalism to the game and broke the barriers to reach the highest level. Hadden recalled the dark days of Scottish rugby and compared his former team to the Islanders who are thriving to be internationally recognized.

“Sri Lankan backs last year were skillful and quick, the forwards were tough and the defense was well organized. Last year’s team had a very good understanding about the game tactically and technically. But the Scottish team is professional. It’s full time rugby with much bigger, stronger and faster players than the Sri Lankan team. The difference is quite simple. There wouldn’t be a physical contest for the Scots against Sri Lanka. But in terms of skill and understanding the Sri Lankan team would be as better as the Scottish team. The progression for Sri Lanka is play at the higher level, find teams better and stronger than them so it would force them to raise their standard. Sri Lanka should get use to the intensity of the highest level to be global contenders in rugby.”

“When the game went professional Scotland was at the bottom. We were struggling to cope with France, England, New Zealand and South Africa. But in ten years of professionalism we closed the gap. We are just a small country compared with big teams but there’s great pleasure and joy to be able to reach among the top rugby playing countries. Scotland was just like Sri Lanka and nothing is impossible if they adopt the professional way.”

Hadden who was highly impressed by the level of interest for rugby in Sri Lanka conducted a coaching clinic for youngsters from the age group of under-12 and higher. The coaching clinics were held at the SOS Children’s Village in Piliyandala where 30 youngsters took part on Thursday (April 21) and for over 70 young schoolboys at the CR & FC ground in Colombo the following day.

“I’m working for the Asian 5 Nation rugby and I’m really busy traveling around the developing countries. But I remember speaking to the Sri Lankan team last year just before their A5N Division I final match against Singapore. I said to them that the possible way forward to them is to get themselves in the best physical condition and to try to find opportunities to play at higher level. The players have very good potential and higher talent and I hope the doors of opportunity will open for them,” Hadden advised.

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