Rugby chief Lasitha says Malaysian tour exposed our weaknesses | Daily News


Rugby chief Lasitha says Malaysian tour exposed our weaknesses

SLR chief  Lasitha Gunaratne
SLR chief Lasitha Gunaratne

Sri Lanka Rugby’s (SLR) chief Lasitha Gunaratne admits they may have made a mistake by not participating in the Asia Rugby Division I Championship last year depriving many players who toil the entire season of representing their country.

“Last year the (SLR) council took a decision to concentrate on Sevens and not take part in XVs on a recommendation of the High Performance committee. They also insisted Sevens players should not be allowed to play in XVs. There were other reasons such as confirmation of tournament was not informed well in advance by Asia Rugby. Taking into consideration all this, we were wondering whether it was worth to go into the Asian tournament without preparation. But on hindsight we realized it was a wrong decision council took,” said Gunaratne told the ‘Daily News’.

As a result a fresher-laden Sri Lanka national team competing in the upcoming Asia Rugby Division 1 Championship in Chinese Taipei. Sri Lanka will be up against Philippines in the semifinal on May 29 while Chinese Taipei take on Singapore in the other semifinal. The winners meet in the final on June 1 preceded by the match between the losing semifinalists.

“This tournament is important for us. We managed to secure our position in Division 1 without being relegated despite not taking part last time using our good offices,” said SLR president Gunaratne who was apologetic to the players who missed out on wearing the Sri Lanka jersey last season.

“In domestic rugby, the league is the most important and popular event on the calendar. If we don’t take part in XVs rugby when there is an opportunity, then we are depriving the players taking part in the league to represent Sri Lanka if we only concentrate on Sevens. There are forwards who want to represent Sri Lanka. As a governing body we should think about the players’ future and their ambitions also. Any player who plays rugby wants to represent Sri Lanka. If we as administrators don’t give that opportunity we are depriving the players. Okay we did a mistake of not taking part. Now we realized that and we are happy to continue taking part (in Asia Rugby Division I competition),” said Gunaratne, a former Royal forward who first represented Sri Lanka in the first of four Rugby Asiads as a schoolboy in 1988.

Preparations for the forthcoming tournament also were disrupted because of the tense situation in the country but fortunately Asanga Seneviratne, the immediate past president of SLR secured an invitation for the national team to play two Test matches in Malaysia.

“Sri Lanka’s 15-a-side team went on a tour after two years. Result-wise we won one (55-14 against Malaysia Barbarians) and lost one (31-26 to Malaysia). The decision council took to go on this was very positive. It’s good that we went on this tour because now we know our weakness. If we didn’t go we don’t know where we stand,” said the former CR and FC number 8.

“People can criticize that we lost to Malaysia but they have to see why the players did not perform. There was no match practice and hardly any training. After the league season finished in March, we wanted to training in April. Then the New Year holidays came and the incidents disrupted our training programme. We are not giving excuses but suddenly without training we went to Malaysia with the bulk of the squad of 32 making their debut for Sri Lanka,” said Gunaratne who took many positives from the Malaysia tour.

“Omalka Gunaratne was outstanding. We have seen his leadership qualities. Overall it was a lack of experience and competitive exposure. With this Malaysian tour they have now confidence of playing against foreigners,” said Gunaratne who rued the fact that foreign players did not feature throughout last season because of legal disputes.

“We took a decision to allow foreign players. If they had done that also would have helped in the bigger picture. All the players will be used to playing against and alongside foreigners benefitting from the experience. Playing with skilled and experienced players also improves their standard,” he said.

On the withdrawal or non-availability of some players from Kandy SC from the original squad including appointed captain Roshan Weeraratne, Gunaratne said he respected their decisions.

“Players have all the right to take a decision of their availability. All these players have given reasons why they are not attending or taking part. We have to respect their decision,” he said but slammed officials for playing politics.

“As president of Sri Lanka Rugby, I am here not to pull for my club or my school. It is sad people think others are also like them. They will support for their culture, their club, their school, but I am not like that. I am for Sri Lanka rugby. Still people think we are taking decision by being biased. Not only rugby, the whole country is like that. That is how they behave for their club, their school, their party.

As a governing body if you are in a different position, then you should change your mindset and focus on national commitment,” said Gunaratne who was elected vice president of SLR headed by Air Vice Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke in 2010, served as secretary before taking over the reins from Asanga Seneviratne last year.

“Under Asanga’s leadership we devised a good pathway programme. My duty is to continue with the plan because we all were part of that committee. We just have to continue the good work and correct if anything is wrong,” he said like reversing the decision of not taking part in the Asia Rugby Division 1 tournament.


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