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Minister Harin Fernando (right) presents the autographed All Blacks rugby jersey that will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to Isipathana College for producing the highest number of players for Sri Lanka

The stage is set for what would be the start of Sevens rugby extravaganza at the Race Course ground in Colombo this weekend where the very best of Sri Lankan players are on show along with several  overseas exponents in the business.

The teams contesting are the Access Kings, Walkers Vipers, Etisalat Panthers, EZY Wolves, Cargills Gladiators, Softlogic Warriors, Telecom Mobitel Eagles and KBSL Dragons. All are franchise teams set up and owned by leading business ventures in Sri Lanka with Dialog being the driving force behind the concept.

Chairman of the project Minister of Telecommunications Harin Fernando gracing the introduction of teams at a stage show held at the Kingsbury hotel in Colombo on Wednesday night revealed that it took them just two weeks to finalise the concept and make the event a reality.

“This is the start of a big push for rugby in the country which we have to acknowledge is confined only to two provinces in the country namely the Western and Central provinces. But we have to move forward and what better way than to come together for this cause. I can assure our foreign players that they will be in for a real taste of paradise”, said Minister Fernando who also recalled his rugby playing days at St. Joseph’s College in Colombo.

The tournament is known as the Sri Lanka Super Sevens powered by Dialog which will continue in the following weekend as well and open free of charge to rugby fans with matches commencing at 1pm on all days.

Minister Fernando paid a glowing tribute to the Minister of International Trade Malik Samarawickrema calling him the godfather of Sri Lanka rugby who put in his heart and soul for the betterment of the sport and players.

Minister Samarawickrema is a former Sri Lanka scrum half who played for CR and FC and later was responsible for the rise of Kandy Sports Club which is the dominant force in club rugby in the country.

The cream of Sri Lanka players will be in action at the championship. They were put on show at the ceremony on Wednesday night where one of the players, former St. Peter’s College and Sri Lanka fly half Dulaj Perera gave out a musical rendition with his guitar and team-mates from the Telecom Mobitel Eagles joining in the singing.

The Sri Lanka Under-20 team led by Kevin Dixon which won last week’s Asian Sevens title was also felicitated on the occasion.

To spice up the tournament, eight school teams Isipathana, St. Peter’s, Wesley, St. Joseph’s, S. Thomas’, Prince of Wales, Zahira and DS Senanayake have been brought in to compete in the event.

It will also be a memorable occasion for Isipathana who will receive a windfall for producing the highest number of players to don the Sri Lanka colours when a jersey autographed by New Zealand’s World Cup winning team is auctioned and the proceeds donated to them.

Minister Harin Fernando said the jersey was a gift given to him by the New Zealand sports minister when he (Fernando) visited the country this year.

Ministers Harin Fernando, Ravi Karunanayake and Malik Samarawickrema join Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union president Asanga Seneviratne, CEO of Dialog Dr. Hans Wijesuriya and Amalie Nanayakkara (Pictures by Mushtaq Thasleem)
Ministers Harin Fernando, Ravi Karunanayake and Malik Samarawickrema join Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union president Asanga Seneviratne, CEO of Dialog Dr. Hans Wijesuriya and Amalie Nanayakkara (Pictures by Mushtaq Thasleem)