As the heat, intensity and focus of the ongoing Schools Rugby League competition weans, the diverged rugby fans of Sri Lanka will ready themselves to embrace the upcoming Carlton Super Sevens International Rugby tournament. By the time Sri Lanka’s most elite rugby competition reaches its fifth version, it has come across many alterations and improvements, [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Carlton Sevens comes with an IRB flavour


As the heat, intensity and focus of the ongoing Schools Rugby League competition weans, the diverged rugby fans of Sri Lanka will ready themselves to embrace the upcoming Carlton Super Sevens International Rugby tournament. By the time Sri Lanka’s most elite rugby competition reaches its fifth version, it has come across many alterations and improvements, to be recognised as a one-of-a-kind Sevens tournament in the world.

The Carlton Super Sevens will include new statures this year with the inclusion of a local Sevens competition that will be served as a prelude to the main event, focusing on pruning down respective franchises to the cream of local talent. In addition the organisers made arrangements to bring down the chief of the International Rugby Board (IRB), Bernard Lapasset, to give him a clear insight of Sri Lanka rugby with the aim of drafting the Carlton Super Sevens into the annual international rugby calendar. This was elaborated further by Ronnie Ibrahim, the Tournament Director of Carlton Super Sevens to the Sunday Times.

Fijian Sevens sensation Osea Kolinisau was one of the top features at the Carlton Super Sevens last year

“We invited the IRB Chairman for the launch of this year’s tournament last week and he was highly impressed on the game’s popularity in Sri Lanka. With the initiative of Carlton Super Sevens as a franchise-based competition, we made it a point to register the tournament with the IRB with all rights being reserved by us. Any other country may conduct a tournament like this but they will have to make alterations to the modules. The IRB has recognised our tournament and it has helped us generate the attraction of key international players.” Ibrahim stated.

In 2009 the Carlton Super Sevens set off as a Sevens competition among nations where national teams of 16 different countries vied for supremacy under two segments, the International and Asian. But the organisers made changes the following year to give less privileged teams from Asia to compete along with top international sides. But as Ibrahim opined, at both occasions the tournament served very little purpose from Sri Lanka’s point of view.

“Our aim was to give players from Sri Lanka more exposure at this tournament. At the inaugural tournament we thought it was the best thing that could happen for our players but we understood that only seven or a maximum 12 players get to feature in the whole competition. The following year we put all teams together so at least Sri Lankan players would get the opportunity of playing against top Sevens teams from the World Series. But we observed that it still did not fit our purpose. Then after serious consideration we came out with the ‘Plan C’, to break the tournament into franchises representing provincial teams so that more local players are featured in it with international stars also in the fray with them as team mates and as opponents,” Ibrahim elaborated.

The initial idea to reshuffle the structure of the tournament was proposed by Namal Rajapaksa, the chairman of Carlton Sports Club and who himself is a national level rugby player. The committee consisting expert individuals from different trades, had very little to argue and object about as the idea indicated of a successful venture in introducing professionalism into rugby. Among the initial proposals was to field franchise teams representing the nine provinces of the country and a team representing Jaffna as the tenth side to make the competition a balanced one.

“We knew that Sri Lanka would never get an opportunity to play against New Zealand, Fiji or any other top World Sevens Series team for a matter. But if we could get the players in to this tournament and have them in franchises as key players there’s a lot our players can get in return, to play alongside and against them in a single competition. In a way this helped us identify the potential of local

Ronnie Ibrahim, as the tournament director of Carlton Super Sevens wishes to include the competition into the IRB calendar - Pix by Amila Gamage

players and we were able to give a value to their talent. Many players have personally told me how pleased they are to get due recognition,” Ibrahim added.

Going beyond the rugby field, the Carlton Super Sevens also has managed to generate spectators’ solidarity towards their respective provincial teams. This, however, was not achieved overnight as Ibrahim revealed. Each franchise namely Western Warriors, Southern Sharks, Central Kings, Uva Vipers, Northern Gladiators, Eastern Eagles, North Central Typhoons, Sabaragamuwa Stallions and North Central Blacks representing the provinces and Jaffna Challengers, the only city based team, make it a point to conduct rugby coaching camps targeting schools and clubs, educate rugby fans on the game and create a strong fan base within their respective proportions. Apart from it the tournament this year looks to seriously adhere to other areas of rugby such as refereeing, anti doping, development, player and official safety and spectators’ adherence to preserve the quality of the sport.

“The background work is not as beautiful as it seems from the outer. Though players come here to play rugby, they have other commitments too. The international players play a big role here. Each franchise has their own action plan based on their respective provinces. That’s beyond the competition and if you focus the attention back into the competition there are serious issues that have suddenly cropped up with the progress of the ongoing Schools League Rugby Tournament.

We are seriously thinking about refereeing, anti doping and spectator violence as they all play major roles with rugby these days. We have already made serious discussions with relevant parties to conduct a trouble-free tournament this year,” Ibrahim, who also serves as India’s national rugby coach stated.

In terms of refereeing the Carlton Super Sevens will give ample room to local players, coaches and referees to reach the final event through their newly introduced two-legged local competition, which are pitted to be played in Nuwara Eliya on June 29 and 30 and in Nawalapitiya on July 6 and 7. This competition will feature all franchises with 15 players each but sans international players who will join later for the main event. In addition the organisers have laid their fullest confidence on Sri Lanka Rugby Referees’ Society (SLRRS) for the local version of the competition. But when this tournament concludes at Nawalapitiya, it will also be the end of the road for three under-performing local players from each franchise and also the referees. Each franchise will fill the three empty slots with international super stars while the top performing referees will join the six international referees coming down to officiate the main competition. As for the coaches, they will be fully in charge of the teams in the local tournament and will act as assistants to top foreign coaches in the main event.

This year, the first leg will be played at the Galle International Cricket Stadium on July 27 and 28 but as planned they will not host the second leg at Race Course in Colombo due to ongoing construction. Before the second leg permanently reaches the Race Course next year, it will be held at CR&FC ground in Longdon Place on August 2 and 3. we hope things will further improve and turn this competition into a global image in Sevens rugby.”

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