Investing in a mix of exuberant youth and tested expertise

Havelocks set their sights on the rugby summit

By Chris Dhambarage
It was in the backdrop of some uncertainty that they started their campaign three months ago. But, in a dramatic turn of events, Havelock’s Sports Club came out with a stunning performance to finish among the top three in the Caltex Inter Club ‘A’ Division League tournament.
Their success had a great amount of significance considering the fact that they were fielding a completely new- look side studded with a number of promising schoolboys who had excelled while representing the national youth team.

This young side was able to create a major sensation by pulling off some surprise victories and they look forward to carrying that outstanding form into the knockout tournament.
In fact Havelock’s SC coach Thusitha Peiris believed that it was their policy to include youngsters in the team that has brought about a dramatic change in their fortunes this season.
“We decided on a policy that we will go with youth. We started attracting young players at the beginning of the season. It was difficult because nobody likes to come and join a side at the bottom.
“We also managed to get some of the stalwarts of Havelock’s Sports Club to come and help the side. People like Michael Jayasekera, Ana Saranapala, Kolitha Gunatilleke and Angelo Wickremaratne all rallied round us. The support given by Asanga Seneviratne as the main sponsor (Nations Lanka Finance) also made a big difference at the end.”

Havelock’s SC coach stated that they could look to the future in a positive manner as this young side has all the ingredients of turning into a champion outfit within the next two years.
“There is of course plenty of room for improvement. But we can’t convert this team into a champion side overnight. This is a young outfit and they need to go through the phases and gain experience.
“But still I am really satisfied with the performance and how far we have come this season. After being last in the previous year, coming to number three in the league is a great achievement indeed. We also had the opportunity of leading the points table at least for one week which is quite a good achievement.”
“In fairness to the players, they gave the best that they could give to the team. But as a team we still have the opportunity to improve and we want to carry this form into the knockout tournament.”
Thusitha Peiris stressed the importance of having two foreign players in their ranks as their services really helped the Park club to raise their standard overall and to compete against the very best.
“Initially we wanted to get among the top four of the tournament. That was our prime target. With that intention we managed to get some promising youngsters and schoolboys into our squad.”
“We were an ageing side at that time. With the sponsors coming in we were able to get down the foreigners and the standard of the game improved immediately. We were pitted against some of the top teams and we were able to beat them all except for Kandy Sports Club.”

“This was part of a sponsorship package from Nations Lanka Finance PLC and they managed to secure the services of these two foreign players which came in at the correct time.”
“This is a young side trying to come up the ladder with limited resources and the experience and knowledge of the two foreign players contracted have helped us to raise our standard as well.”
“Getting the service of foreigners after a lapse of probably six years has really paid off because we were struggling against the top teams in the last two years. In return they have dished out some quality rugby and hopefully we will continue next season.”
Peiris further noted that they had a tough start to the season and were forced to play the reigning champions Kandy Sports Club in their opening fixture of the tournament.
“In the first outing we should have won that game against Kandy Sports Club where we lost by a five-point margin. It was a close game. The foreigners flew in just three days before the game and they could not get used to the climate and were struggling a bit”.

“Nevertheless we managed to beat all the other sides and the biggest achievement I would say is beating Navy SC in Welisara which has not been done by any team up to now”.
“We also beat CR and FC at Longden Place after a lapse of many years. To win that game is a big achievement but I would have been more happy and proud if we had managed to win the trophy.”
The Havelock’s coach also believed that the lack of experience was the major setback for his team as they lost a couple of key matches by a close margin having failed to add the finishing touches.
“It is just that some of these players need a little bit of experience and especially when you play against top sides you need to have that experience. We lost a couple of key games due to lack of experience and lack of decision making, which we could have easily pulled off.”
Pieirs also stated that balancing the team with an equally good set of forwards and three quarters was their biggest challenge as they worked hard towards finding the right combination.
“To have a good side you must have a blend of forwards and a three-quarter line. Together with my assistant coach Leonard de Zilva we have been trying our very best to combine both sets and to move forward with the momentum.”

“There are of course weak areas in both sets because our scrumages need further improvement. We are playing two new prop forwards who have not been playing club rugby for quite some time. It will take some time for them to get adjusted and hopefully they will be a force to reckon with next season.”
“There are some promising youth rugby players who are with us, Anuruddha Wilwara, Muthuthanthri and Angelo de Silva who have played good rugby for their schools. They stood up to the challenge in their very first season at club level and I am really proud of the manner they have got acclimatised to club rugby.”
Peiris further stated that the team’s fitness level throughout the season was at its peak and commended the efforts of their physical fitness trainer Mothalal Jayatilleke for a fantastic job.
“The impact of Mothilal Jayatilleke as the physical trainer has also helped us a lot and the injury rate has been very low this season. This has been a great season for us we have hardly had any major injuries except for one or two”.

“We have been very fortunate in that way and the credit should go to Mothilal Jayatilleke who has been training with the boys since January. He has got the players body conditioning in place through power training, speed training and all that and making sure that they are in good condition to avoid major injuries”.
The Havelock’s coach also believed that the healthy competition among the players have also attributed to the team’s success where every position has been contested by the reserves.

“What has really transpired this season is that each position has been contested. That is something very good. We have a good set of boys in the second string side who are on the bench and trying to make an impact.”
“They are pushing the senior players and they are pushing the current starting line up to the limit and they are also trying their very best to get into the side. That competition has brought the best in certain players and some of the players who were struggling last year have now decided to change their attitude”.

Peiris said that they are keenly looking forward towards the knock out tournament and are determined to continue their excellent form with another good performance.
“There will be few changes and we will be shifting positions around trying to get the best out of each player. There will be some surprises and new moves with a different pattern of play”.

The Havelock’s SC rugby squad:
Prop forwards: Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Desmond Wilson, Miskin Ching, Rajiv Ganapathy
Hooker: Roshan Fonseka, Angelo de Silva, Rajiv Perera
Second row forwards: Kavinda Jayasena (captain), Asela Dissanayake
Flankers: Sudarshana Muthuthantri, Dilan Warnakulasuriya, Philip Selwam, Chalaka Galappathy
Number eight: Sae Angsta
Scrum half: Amjad Bucks, Roshan Rajapaksa
Fly half: Pushpakumara Perera, Sajith Bandara, Nimesh Perera
Centres: Anuruddha Wilwara, Pola Thalakata, Isuru Shantha, Harsha Weerakkody, Thusitha Samaratilleke
Wingers: Ruchira Rathnage, Claude Sanjeewa, Lee Keigal
Full back: Sajith Bandara, Nmesh Perera
Coach: Thusitha Peiris
Assistant coach: Leonard de Zilva
Trainer: Mothilal Jayatilleke


Rugby World Cup – a walk down memory lane

The seventh edition of the Rugby World Cup will kick off in New Zealand on September 9. The Nation brings to its readers in a series beginning today the origins of the tournament and the inaugural tournament held in 1987.
Rugby World Cup - The Origins
The notion of a Rugby World Cup had first been contemplated in 1979, but it was not until late-1983 that the Australian Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby Football Union submitted written proposals to the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB).
Neither was aware of the other’s proposal with Australia wanting to stage a tournament to coincide with their Bicentenary in 1988 and New Zealand proposing the previous year.

Both proposals were turned down but Australia and New Zealand pooled their resources to conduct a feasibility study, which would then be presented at the IRFB’s annual meeting in March 1985.
Australia and New Zealand settled on 1987 as the year, whereby avoiding any clash with the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, and a vote was held on the proposal at the IRFB meeting in the French capital Paris.
The vote between the eight IRFB members – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – came down in favour of a World Cup by six votes to two.

Ireland and Scotland were against the proposal as it appeared to threaten the amateur status of the sport, while France was in favour only if countries from outside the IRFB were invited to take part.
South Africa would not be allowed to take part in any tournament, they were the subjects of an international sports boycott because of the apartheid regime, but nonetheless voted in favour.
The positive decision was an important one because it ensured that a tournament, there were no plans for a second at that stage, would be run by the world body and not businessmen and television companies interested in simply making money.

This green light left little more than two years to lay the foundations of a tournament, which finally provided the vehicle to establish a ‘world champion’ and would be held in New Zealand with Australia as sub-hosts.
Argentina were invited to take South Africa’s place with other invitations extended to Fiji, Tonga, Japan, Canada, Romania, Zimbabwe, Italy and the United States for the 16-team tournament to be held in May and June 1987.
These teams were split into four pools of four, three of which were based in New Zealand with the other, featuring Australia, hosted in Sydney and Brisbane with the top two nations in each pool progressing to the quarter-finals.
The inaugural match between New Zealand and Italy took place on 22 May at Eden Park in Auckland, a match the hosts won easily 70-6 and one which went a long way to uniting a country divided by the Cavaliers’ tour of South Africa in April 1986.
However the stadium was only half full, perhaps the consequence of the match being played on a Friday, but while New Zealanders embraced the World Cup in Australia the tournament was struggling to capture the public’s imagination.

That inaugural tournament saw 600,000 people pass through the turnstiles with 300 million in 17 countries watching the action on television, figures that would increase to 2.25 million and four billion in 200 territories respectively for the 2007 event.
The Rugby World Cup is now established as the third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, having achieved its goal of merging the traditional powers with new and emerging nations to make it a truly worldwide sport.
One person who played a key role in this journey was the late Vernon Pugh QC, the International Rugby Board and Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman who was instrumental in the expansion of the governing body.
Rugby World Cup 1987 (Champions: New Zealand)
The desire for a competition to determine the pecking order in world rugby was realised following the International Rugby Football Board’s (IRFB) approval for an inaugural Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand and Australia in 1987.

Seven of the 16 places were automatically filled by the IRFB members – New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France – with South Africa unable to compete because of the international sports boycott due to apartheid.
There would be no qualification process to fill the remaining nine spots with invitations instead sent out to Argentina, Fiji, Italy, Canada, Romania, Tonga, Japan, Zimbabwe and the United States.
The inaugural match took place on 22 May between New Zealand and Italy at Eden Park in Auckland, a match the hosts won convincingly 70-6 with Michael Jones, Grant Fox and Oscar Collodo scoring the first ever try, conversion and penalty.
New Zealand was a country divided by the Cavaliers’ rebel tour to South Africa 13 months earlier, but this match and a moment of inspiration from wing John Kirwan would reunite the rugby-loving nation.
Kirwan, who ironically would become Italy coach more than a decade later, received the ball near his own line and took on virtually the entire Italian team in a 70-metre run for his second try of the game.
This pattern of one-sided matches was a regular occurrence with the seven IRFB members proving too strong for the others – half of the 24 matches across the four pools saw one team score 40 or more points with no record score lasting very long.

The quarter-finals were, as expected, filled by the seven IRFB members with Fiji, whose place in the tournament had been in doubt because of a military coup, completing the line-up.
In the first quarter-final New Zealand proved too strong for Scotland and won 30-3 in Christchurch, while the next day France, who had drawn with Scotland in their first game, ended the hopes of the entertainers from Fiji with a 31-16 victory at Eden Park.
The other quarter-finals took place in Australia with the home side, despite the loss of Nick Farr-Jones after just three minutes, running out 33-15 winners over Ireland. The final match saw Wales overcome England 16-13 in an uninspiring encounter.
Australia and France met in Sydney in a match regarded by many as one of the greatest ever; one Australia led three times but was clinched by a late moment of magic from wing Serge Blanco with a try in the corner to clinch a shock 30-24 win.

If the first semi-final had been a classic, the second was a one-sided affair with New Zealand simply unstoppable against Wales, scoring eight tries in a 49-6 win in a game that saw Huw Richards become the first player to be sent off at a Rugby World Cup.
The final though proved a match too far for France with New Zealand, who were unquestionably the best team in the tournament, emerging the 29-9 winners to allow captain David Kirk to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
New Zealand had scored 298 points in six matches, 126 of them by fly half Fox to set a tournament record that still stands today, with 43 tries scored and only four conceded emphasising their dominance. Wales beat Australia 22-21 with a late try by Adrian Hadley to finish third. – [IRB]

[To be continued]