Rugby captains representing the eight teams contesting the Inter-club league rugby tournament pose with the championship trophy during a launch organized in connection with the event | (Pic by Mushtaq Thasleem)

Says the foregone conclusion that Kandy SC will win the league title won’t be the case this time

Kandy Sports Club might be looking to add another title to their trophy cabinet, but Sri Lanka Rugby football Union (SLRFU) President Asanga Seneviratne believes that there can be a surprise awaiting rugby fans this season.

“The feeling is that Kandy SC winning the league is a foregone conclusion, but that won’t be the case this time. There are other exciting teams and they are backed by good coaches, so this year promises an exciting rugby season,” Seneviratne said at a ceremony held at the SSC Pavilion in Colombo on Wednesday to announce the kick-off to the 2016/17 Inter-club league rugby tournament.

The SLRFU big boss thanked rugby’s main sponsor Dialog Axiata PLC for tying up with what he termed as ‘the number one spectator sport in Sri Lanka.’

Eight clubs namely, Kandy SC, Havelock SC, Navy SC, Army SC, Air Force SC, CR&FC, Police SC and CH&FC will battle for the plum where matches will be worked off on a home and away basis in two rounds of rugby. The kick-off to the tournament is scheduled on November 4 where hosts Police SC will take on Navy SC at Police Park.

One of the key features at this year’s tournament will be the functioning of a Television Match Official (TMO). This is the first time such a facility will be in use at a domestic rugby tournament. According to SLRFU Vice President Lasitha Guneratne, the TMO facility will be made available during selected games. “The TMO facility will add to the quality of the game and aid referees,” Guneratne said while speaking at the occasion.

Seneviratne observed that as many as 250 quality schoolboy rugby players graduate from their academic institutes and club authorities should scout for such talent.

Colombo Hockey & Football Club (CH&FC) struggled last season to stand up and be counted, largely due to an amateur player base available to them and the non-availability of their own grounds for training. When a scribe posed the question whether the SLRFU would help struggling clubs like CH&FC, the SLRFU Vice President answered in the affirmative.

CH&FC was one club that was affected by the shifting of the rugby season from May to November because now the club and school rugby seasons clash. CH&FC forms the face of rugby at Gymkhana Club which is situated at Maitland Crescent. The club also fields a cricket team Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) which features in the domestic cricket tournament.

Seneviratne justified the shift of the rugby season to November saying, “As many as six officials are needed to commence a rugby match. It would have been impossible to find that number of officials if we didn’t shift the season. This shifting has helped us avoid the clashing of school rugby matches with club matches and increased the availability of grounds too,” said Seneviratne.

Kandy SC won a triple crown last season including the league rugby tournament.