Sizzling sevens

By Ravi Nagahawatte
Sri Lanka’s achievements in 15-a-side rugby have greatly influenced the country’s sevens rugby set-up. Players show added enthusiasm in attending training with a view of making the national seven-a-side rugby team that will take part in the forthcoming Asian Games in Doha Qatar. This is rather unusual in a set-up where the country’s recent accolades in rugby have come through the national team’s participation in the 15-a-side version of rugby.
The manager of the national sevens rugby team Chaminda Rupasinghe in an interview with The Nation said that sevens rugby would retain its place in Sri Lankan rugby whatever the achievements be in the traditional 15-a-side rugby. “Sri Lankans have the speed and the skill and sevens is the form of rugby where they get opportunities to play against the super-powers of world rugby,” said Rupasinghe who has been recalled as manager of the national sevens team after a lapse of three years.
Rupasinghe acknowledged the fact that the country’s recent success at the Rugby World Cup qualifiers - where teams comprised 15 members each - had had a huge bearing on the players. “The players are fully focused on the game than in the past. They come on time for practice and there have been no hiccups,” said Rupasinghe after supervising a rugby training session for the national team that took place at Kandy Sports Club ground in Nittawela.
The players are doing all they can to take the best use of an opportunity rugby has presented them with to earn a fair buck through rugby. The sport in Sri Lanka unlike in the past offers players a decent income, thanks to the SLRFU contracting the national players. Rupasinghe said that rugby players when compared to cricketers didn’t enjoy the best of facilities but they were working twice as hard to make a mark in the international scene. “I have come to know that certain mercantile establishments have been very understanding in releasing the players for practice. The tour to Doha is not a shopping spree. We have a vision and that is to finish amongst the top three teams in the tournament,” said Rupasinghe who last served as manager of the national sevens team at the 2003 Hong Kong Sevens.
Sri Lanka has made the line-up of teams in some of the world’s most popular sevens rugby championships like the Hong Kong Sevens, Dubai Sevens and the Durban Sevens. Rugby is relatively new at the Asian Games which has a long history with the inaugural games held way back in 1951, in India. Do the players look forward to the games with the same interest they show for some of the regular and more recognized sevens rugby tournaments in the world. “There is a lot of pride in wearing the Sri Lanka rugby jersey. Unlike in some of the international sevens tournaments this one doesn’t allow nations to field expatriates in their teams. The players know that they are playing against the best teams from Asia,” said Rupasinghe.
Sri Lanka’s rugby players unlike in the past have beefed up their bodies by consuming high protein supplements and undergoing regular training in gymnasiums. “Each coach or trainer has his own method of training. But I believe that sevens rugby players need to do high tech training. This type of training is very important in sevens rugby because forwards and three-quarters need to be equal in speed and strength. To do this training players have to be both mentally fit and well nourished,” he explained. He added that coaches and trainers shouldn’t push players at training if they find that they are undernourished.
At present the rugby players are taking part in a residential camp in Kandy. Coaching camps have earned the reputation for strengthening the bond between players. But Rupasinghe believes that sevens rugby has its own special way of making each player perform his role on the field while being aware of the fact that his actions have a huge bearing on the rest of the players on the field. “I think sevens rugby represents team work more than 15-a-side-rugby. One mistake by a player in rugby sevens can bring the curtains down on a team,” is how Rupasinghe emphasized the importance of team-work in rugby sevens.


Sevens rugby squad training hard at Nittawela

By Mariks from Kandy
The Sri Lanka rugby sevens squad for the Asian Games was over here in Kandy, from Monday to Friday, and was hard at practice at the Nittawela Grounds. Laga Tavita was doing the coaching part with Manager Chaminda ‘Diga’ Rupasinghe there to give of his expertise.
The players who were at practices last week left on Friday, for home, and are expected back tomorrow Monday for another seven days training.
According to the Manager Rupasinghe and coach Laga all players are physically fit and are expected to give of their best to make the final 12 for the Asian Games Sevens.