The Havelock Town School sees the need to adopt rugby’s new trends even though they are a contrast to how they’ve played the game for decades
Isipathana College like any other rugby playing academic institute is cautious about the upcoming Sinhala Tamil New Year. This is the time when children tuck into sweetmeats and see their bellies bloat. But the professional approach to rugby gives a reminder to all players that they must guard their mouths. “How can I tell them not to eat? The New Year comes once a year. But I have told the boys to keep their focus on rugby and not to overindulge in New Year food,” said Isipatha College First XV rugby coach Lasintha de Costa in an interview with Nation.
Rugby has experienced a significant change over the last decade. The game is more demanding and emphasis is on the physical aspect of rugby. Coach Lasintha said that Isipathana College has moved away from playing its traditional open fast paced game and adopted the ‘slap bang’ version of rugby that World Rugby (The controlling body rugby union of the world) is promoting among its member nations.
Gym work is so essential and that’s why the school has hired the services of Benedict Perera. The ideal concept for school rugby is to make the players bigger and faster and Isipathana College has warmed up to this ideology like an ambitious kid adopting something new because he wants to succeed. “Our supporters who grumble might see that we have moved away from our traditional approach to the game. But the reality is that all that is in the past, and we need to absorb what is new and move with the new trends,” said Lasintha.
Last season under Kushan Indunil was a sensation. The Green Shirts won all trophies on offer. This year, too, the goal remains very similar to the last year despite the competition among teams having gone up a few notches. “I won’t say Isipathana are favourites, nor can any other side stake a claim to this ‘position’. The game is physically so challenging and we have realized that every team must keep improving. Isipathana must improve as well,” said Lasintha, despite his side topping the group in the points table after a gruelling six weeks of rugby. Isipathana are now slated to meet Zahira, S. Thomas’, Trinity and Wesley when the second round of the inter-school league rugby tournament commences following a month’s break after the New Year.
Coming back to the changes to the game where schoolboys are taking a professional approach to rugby, Lasintha observes that a coach can’t forget for a moment that he is dealing with children. According to him, today’s children are frequent uses of social media services and hardly talk. “They are so different from what we were. But the bottom line is that we need to understand what they are doing and what their wants are. You can’t change them, but we need to know how to get the work done through them,” said Lasintha who is a past rugby captain of Isipathana College who went on to represent Sri Lanka at rugby.
Still what’s talked about mostly are their performances against Royal and St. Joseph’s College where they overcame opposition as good as them. But the Peterite game was a disaster and coach Lasintha termed the outing as an ‘off day’. “After the Peterite game, we took it upon us not to do anything to put the Isiapathana College jersey down. Isipathana is not used to defeat and it’s a bit difficult to regroup and comeback after a loss, but we did it,” reflected Lasintha.
This year the side is led by centre Sumudu Rankothge who has Chamod Fernando as his deputy. This year Isipathana has a young side, but according to their coach, they have filled the void left by the exit of 13 seniors who played in 2016. Lasintha said that the present squad had worked very hard at the start of the season and made the necessary improvements to become a side spectators will stand up and take note.
But still the pressure is on them. Coach Lasintha acknowledges the fact that all teams are watching them and following them because they head the points table. He puts pressure on the boys during training, but on match day he takes all the strain and allows the boys to play their game. “Like players, even a coach has to improve. Now, I have mastered the art of not showing it when I am under pressure,” said Lasintha who is assisted this season by Bilal Hassen.