Minister Rajapaksa wants five rugby Sevens | Sunday Observer

Minister Rajapaksa wants five rugby Sevens

8 November, 2020
Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa
Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka must focus on developing a vibrant and strong Sevens rugby squad because it is in this format that Sri Lanka have a good chance to win a medal at international level.

“To build strong rugby players they must be sent to foreign countries to play in their circuits often. The opponents are strong there and our players will be able to match their standard after about three or four years exposure,” expressed Namal Rajapaksa the Sports Minister in a live program on-line in the Sri Lanka Tuskers website.

Three schoolboy captains Samuel Ogbebor from Wesley, Manilka Ruberu from Isipathana and Asiri Seneviratne from Kingswood also participated in this dialogue.

Minister Rajapaksa also reiterated that to build stronger players Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) should conduct four or five tournaments per year. This will help a player’s body to be conditioned to face foreign opposition.

“They have to work hard a lot and play at least three games per week. The selection criteria should consist of a player having played at least one whole season for a local club. Once a player has been noted for his excellent performances he should be included into the national team even if he is participating overseas. Many countries call their good players when the country needs their services against other nations,” observed Rajapaksa.

He also stressed that a foreign coach should be hired for more than two years at a time. Only then that he will be able to study the players’ capabilities and guide him to be a better player. He also said that approval will not be given to those who want to hire a coach for less than two years.

Rajapaksa also pointed out that he will use the Sports Council and has formed a committee to assess high level performances who will select sportspersons who have the potential to win medals at international level. The international events that Sri Lanka often go to are the Olympic and Commonwealth Games where rugby is an event. Those selected sportspersons will also be sent overseas for more than two years so that they can be trained further and improve on their level of performances.

All three captains asked almost the same question from the Minister. They said that they missed playing this season and what chance did they have to perform from now onwards.

The minister said that there are two options for school leavers who missed to show their talent last season. One is to change the age limit to under-20 from the current under-19 to allow last year’s players to play for another year. This will be discussed with the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association and the second option is to organize an under-23 inter-club tournament.

Isipathana College that has produced many players who have contributed immensely to rugby in Sri Lanka are still without a ground of their own. For this the minister said that he has held discussions with the Municipal Council about the possibility of giving a ground in close proximity to the school.

Isipathana captain Ruberu said that they could not play much this year and asked what would be their chances of representing the country.

He advised the school leavers to join clubs where they will be members of the playing fifteen rather than join a club where they will be made to sit out on the bench and carry water onto the field. He also added that Sri Lanka need intelligent players and must learn a lot by playing in other countries like Australia and South Africa.

Minister Rajapaksa also said that the Ministry will not hesitate to support a recognized franchise based Sevens tournament.

Sri Lanka was the first Asian country to conduct a franchise based rugby Sevens tournament called Carlton Sevens a few years back. That gave an opportunity to Sri Lanka’s young players to develop their skills playing against world class players.

“SLR must organize about three or four inter-club Sevens tournaments per year before selecting the national squad,” stressed the Minister.

He also said that he has plans to send rugby players to play for overseas clubs in countries like Australia, Russia and South Africa for a period of two years.