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DateLine Sunday, 16 September 2007

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Strong possibility of S. Korea, Hong Kong playing in Colombo at Singer Asiad

There is a strong possibility of both South Korea and Hong Kong agreeing to complete at the Singer Asian Rugby Championships to be staged in Colombo from November 3 to 10, although the participation of Japan, Singapore and Arabian Gulf is very doubtful.

The President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU), DIG Nimal Lewke, who also heads the elite Special Task Force (STF), told the Sunday Observer yesterday that Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Arabian Gulf have not confirmed their participation as yet, and that these five countries have been given time till Saturday (September 22) to clearly state whether they will compete in Colombo or not.

"I am certain that both South Korea and Hong Kong will play in Colombo. Hong Kong RFU wanted us (the SLRFU) to make another request and we did so about two days back. South Korea have taken over the Presidency of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) and I have a gut feeling that they too will play in Colombo" said DIG Nimal Lewke, who also headed the ADFU quite recently.

DIG Lewke said that the Singer Asiad will be restricted to 12 countries due to budgetary restrictions and that the 10 nations who have already confirmed participation are China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Qatar, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhaztan, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. Both Qatar and Iran will be making their debut in the Asiad.

"The Foreign Ministry are in contact with the five countries who are yet to confirm and they have appointed an officer to attend to this matter. The Tourist Board and SriLankan Airlines too are involved in their promotional activities and I am certain that we (the SLRFU) could make this a successful Asiad" said DIG Lewke.

This is the final year that the Asiad is being conducted in the present format. From next year (2008), the structure is to be changed with the top five nations figuring in a Five-Nations Series on a home and away basis. As it stands now, the top five countries in Asia are Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Arabian Gulf and Kazakhastan.

Sri Lanka who are now ranked No 6 are in the Division I group with China, Singapore and Chinese Taipei, while the four nations in the Division II are Malaysia, Thailand, India and Pakistan. The Division I tournament might be staged in Colombo next year (2008) and will be one of the matters to be discussed at the next Council meeting of the ARFU to be held in Colombo during the Asiad in November.

The 12 other countries (Philippines, Guam, Macau, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos, Kampuchea, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Qatar) are in the other Regional Divisions.

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