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Schools Rugby revival launches with 7s tournament

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Sports Minister’s efforts bear fruit:

B.A. Abeyrathna, President of SLSRFA (third from right), holds the sponsorship cheque for the Dialog inter-school Rugby Sevens tournament with Amali Nanayakkara, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Dialog Axiata, and Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports. Others in the picture (from left) Dr. K.A.P. Kiriella, Acting Director-General Institute of Sports Medicine, Harsha Samaranayake, Senior General Manager Brand & Media, Group Marketing, Dialog Axiata, Asanga Senevirathna, Chairman Rugby Advisory Committee, Nirodha Wijerama, General Secretary of SLSRFA and Daya Bandara, Director of Sports and Physical Education. Pic by Kalum Liyanage

The long-awaited and much-anticipated schools’ rugby tournament will return to action this weekend with the introduction of the Sevens championship, once again powered by Dialog Axiata, scheduled to kick off in five provinces.

After almost two barren seasons, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the oval-shaped ball game was slated as a fourth-stage contact sport. Eventually, the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) was granted the necessary permission to restart the school’s rugby (sevens format) under strict health guidelines. All this was possible due to the indefatigable efforts of Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa and the special Rugby advisory committee, appointed by him, headed by Asanga Seneviratne.

“At the outset, I am thankful to SLSRFA and sponsors Dialog Axiata for coming forward to resume school’s rugby in the country. I am also thankful to the Rugby advisory committee headed by Asanga Seneviratne and his team, appointed to look into developing the game, advising me and my ministry officials. As all are aware, with the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic the whole sporting structure collapsed. But, I am proud to state we are the first nation in Asia to conduct sporting events and tournaments that coincide with the pandemic. This was mainly due to the strategic vaccination process under the guidance of His Excellency the President where we are now able to vaccinate the school children without manufacturing vaccines in the country. This is why we can resume all sporting disciplines in schools throughout the country,” said Namal Rajapaksa.

“With this initiative, we have started scouting for talented athletes through the Grama Seva Niladhari areas and by next year will surge ahead in the districts and provinces to pick the talented athletes in all sporting disciplines. Once we pick these athletes, we will help them to develop their skills further through respective governing bodies. We believe through this process we expect to take these athletes to next level and to compete at the international arena fearlessly,” he further added.

“We have identified the same in rugby and the sevens format is capable of winning medals at the international arena for which the school level of competition is very important. I wouldn’t say to popularize the game of rugby at this level, where it has reached the pinnacle, instead, we will take adequate measures to develop the game to the highest level. Finally, I urge the SLSRFA and the Rugby advisory committee to introduce three seven circuits to be played over three weeks instead of the one which will be played this time. By introducing these methods, we will be able to unearth the necessary talent to represent the National Team,” Sports Minister concluded.

The SLSRFA will host this Sevens tournament in five provinces, namely the Western, Central, Wayamba, Sabaragamuwa, and Sothern Provinces, with the participation of 46 schools.

B.A. Abeyratne, the President of SLSRFA, and Asanga Seneviratne Chairman of Rugby Advisory committee, too, thanked the Sports Minister for his unstinted support as without his influence this tournament wouldn’t have been a reality. They also thanked the sponsor’s Dialog Axiata for coming forward to support local rugby and the Asian Rugby tournament too.

Thursday, December 16, 2021 – 01:00

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