The Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) expects the 2016 inter-school under 20 league rugby tournament to be very competitive as a result of the existing format where the division 1 schools feature in six segments.
SLSRFA President Ranjith Chandrasekare told Nation that this system of conducting the tournament offers less fancied teams to be in the running even if they have setbacks during the season. “There are winning chances for all teams,” Chandrasekare said adding that he was grateful to Singer Lanka PLC for committing itself as the sponsor for the schools league rugby tournament for the 13th year.
According to Chandrasekare Singer Sri Lanka PLC has increased its sponsorship by one million compared to last season. The tournament this year features as many as 69 teams where they will be pooled into 3 (three) divisions. A total of 226 matches are on the cards.
Chandrasekera said that over the years there has been a rapid increase in the number of rugby playing schools. However he affirmed that these new schools need to put in extra effort and find more funds if they are to give a run to rugby’s elite schools, which he said have maintained the standards of the sport at school level.
Segments 1 A and 1B are packed with school rugby’s power houses like Royal, Trinity, St, Joseph’s, S.Thomas’, Wesley, D.S Senanayake (1A), Isipathana, Science, St. Peter’s, Kingswood, St.Anthony’s and Dharmaraja (1B). A good number of the schools contesting the Singer League rugby tournament have received financial assistance from Singer Sri Lanka PLC.
Chandrasekare said that it was easy to work with Singer, adding, “They don’t put any undue demands on us”. He said that Singer has got its mileage by being associated with school rugby. Singer Sri Lanka PLC Director Marketing and Commercial Mahesh Wijewardene speaking at the launch for the school rugby season said, “Singer Sri Lanka has always believed in empowering the youth of the nation by getting them to embrace sport. By supporting the youth across the country we are indeed investing in the future of Sri Lanka”.
Chandrasekare said that Singer has also funded the national team contesting the Junior rugby ASIAD and several workshops conducted to benefit players, coaches and masters-in-charge of rugby playing schools.
He lauded the move taken by the Society of Rugby Football Referees in Sri Lanka to remove itself from the SLRFU and go independently. However, he said he has time and again voiced his concerns about the standard of refereeing and called for improvements.
Chandrasekare said that the number of schools playing rugby has now risen from less than 100 to a figure over 600. The game has been embraced by several academic institutes in the villages. It’s heartening to know that there are several girls schools in rural areas which have taken to rugby. Rugby is also a new inclusion in the sports curriculum in Jaffna schools.
The SLSRFA president said that several workshops have been conducted to educate players about anti-doping and on rugby rules and regulations. There had been one workshop recently where the emphasis was on the role of a master-in-charge of rugby.
Chandrasekare said that the SLRRFA operated from its office located at Lumbini Maha Vidyalaya. He however said that when the association’s members were expected to be present in large numbers for crucial meetings they assembled at Royal College.
Rugby is growing in Sri Lanka and the speed at which it is gaining popularity is akin to the movements of a whirlwind. The gap between the elite and lesser affluent schools is narrowing each season, at least in the division 1 segment. When asked what sort of competition he expected this season, the SLSRFA president said, “All teams are good”.