School rugby players, coaches kicking their heEls as world is blown off-side | Sunday Observer

School rugby players, coaches kicking their heEls as world is blown off-side

File photo of the action at Royal College’s opening match against St. Anthony’s College at the Royal Sports Complex
File photo of the action at Royal College’s opening match against St. Anthony’s College at the Royal Sports Complex

Rugby coaches and their schoolboy players are taking the best medical precautions to tackle the coronavirus as they stay put in their homes, but they are also kicking their heels not knowing when they could come out for a season that had all the makings of a blockbustre league before the whole world was blown off-side.

Hardest hit could be the elite coaches who will have an added burden of having to turn things around by way of re-preparations before their charges can move out to continue the remainder of the tournament after it was stopped two weeks into its new season.

"Rugby is not a game that you can turn up and play without preparing over a period of time physically and mentally. This is the challenge for the coaches as it will take some time for the boys to get ready," said New Zealand qualified Royal College coach Dushanth Lewke whose team is the defending league champion. Royal won  both their opening match against St. Anthony's College and were poised to host Kingswood College when the league was suspended.

Like most coaches, Lewke has been in touch with his players and can only bide his time hoping that something positive will emerge from the gloom.

"The players are confined to their homes and home is not the best place to be in when you are a player.

"You lose your fitness and focus, and my opinion is that you could need a month to get started all over again. But certainly with a time line given to us we should be able to prepare and turn things around," said Lewke.

That time frame for recommencement may likely come into the equation a week from now with medical experts and healthcare specialists predicting the darkest period could be over by then and some indication emerging.

Sanath Martis, the coach of St. Peter's College who were touted as a hot favourite before the start of the season, said the break and reset of the league means a harder scrum awaits his team.

"There are no short cuts," said Martis. "You got to go through the proper process, there could be injuries and you got to deal with all these very carefully and at the end of the day you got to make sure you have done the right thing for the players."

A champion schools coach, Martis' biggest fear is that he will not be able to asses each and every player until he sees or meets them after the unspecified lay-off.

"I cannot say in what shape some of the players will be, meaning what they would have done with themselves (during the suspension) and so it will be a case of taking stock and looking into all factors before starting again. Some of it which is not rugby can be beyond a coach's control," said Martis

The new schools rugby season was given a massive financial boost by way of Rs.65 million pumped in by mobile service phone provider Dialog covering both the 12-team top division league and the truncated knock-out tournament.

But with three weeks already lost and the tournament unlikely to recommence in the next three or four weeks, Dialog and the Schools Rugby Association are more likely to channel their energies towards the league and forget the knock-out championship that usually follows

Nearly two thousand schoolboy rugby players are actively involved in the season contesting titles in several groups ranging from senior to junior levels.

The top league is one of the most patronised sporting events in the country and last year too the players had their passions brought to a halt following the Easter Sunday church and tourist hotel bombings.

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