Rugby governors, players brace for another stand-off | Sunday Observer

Rugby governors, players brace for another stand-off

Sri Lanka Sevens captain Dansha Dayan beats the Chinese defence in their Asian rugby series match at the Race Course ground in Colombo last Sunday  (Pic by Saman Sri Wedage)
Sri Lanka Sevens captain Dansha Dayan beats the Chinese defence in their Asian rugby series match at the Race Course ground in Colombo last Sunday (Pic by Saman Sri Wedage)

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) is heading for another collision course with clubs after the national selectors picked a 28-member pool for the upcoming Olympic qualification tournament to be held in Korea next month.

The reason being that players who back away from the Sri Lanka team face a ban from playing in domestic tournaments.

“We will crack down on any player or club which do not adhere to national selection and would face a ban of playing in any local tournaments for their clubs according to World Rugby guide lines,” said SLR deputy president Rizly Illyas after releasing the pool which includes players who did not feature in the Asia Rugby Sevens series.

Among them are Kandy SC’s Danushka Ranjan, Kavindu Perera and Tarinda Ratwatte who were not available for the Asian series for different reasons while Richard Dharmapala has been recalled to the pool which will begin training on Monday for a tour of Singapore before the Olympic tournament in Incheon to be held on November 23 and 24.

CR and FC’s Omalka Gunaratne who led Sri Lanka at the Asia Rugby Championship Division One but opted out of playing in Sevens, has also been named in the pool.

“We are looking at it freshly not only limiting it to the Asian Sevens Series players. We are picking a wider squad because in November we are going for a preparation tour to Singapore Sevens. That’s not a national engagement. We may juggle with 15 to 18 players for both of these because of injuries and other contingencies,” said Nazeem Mohamed, vice-president of the SLR.

“We want to field the best possible side because Japan won’t be playing in the Olympic qualifiers as they have already qualified. Also in the Olympic qualifiers the rules are different. The expat World Rugby law does not apply. You have to have a passport of that country to represent. Even Hong Kong may lose some of their key players. So it’s going to be a battle between us, Hong Kong and China,” said Nazeem, who is also SLR’s High Performance Manager.

“This is a unique opportunity for Sri Lanka simply because the Olympics is hosted by Japan. I don’t know when this kind of thing is going to happen again. Otherwise there is only one spot for Asia and usually Japan takes it. Now we have two spots because Japan is the host,” said Nazeem.

SLR Sevens consultant Nalaka Weerakkody said they would know on Monday who is available on the ground.

“As of today (Saturday) there are no withdrawals. We have been made to understand that some players are injured like Danushka Ranjan who has not recovered yet. We have to wait and see how this goes. Our aim is to field a slightly more experienced side. We believe we have a good chance to contest and get into the Olympics,” said Nazeem.

Sri Lanka squad: Jason Dissanayake, Dansha Dayan, Danushka Ranjan, Srinath Sooriyabandara, Kavindu Perera, Tarinda Ratwatte, Richard Dharmapala, Thilina Bandara, Dinuk Amerasinghe, Janidu Dilshan, Reeza Raffaideen, Kevin Dixon, Omalka Gunaratne, Mithun Hapugoda, Lasindu Heshan, Vimukthi Raula, Kavinda Keshan, Naveen Hena Kankanamage, Nishon Perera, Anuradha Herath, Chathura Senavirathne, Adeesha Weerathunga, Buddima Piyarathna, Ashan Bandara, Sudharaka Dikkumbure, Sachith Silva, Iroshan Silva, Ravindu Hettiarachchi.