Rugby to go professional aiming for medal at 2022 Asian Games Sevens | Daily News

Rugby to go professional aiming for medal at 2022 Asian Games Sevens

Sri Lanka rugby team at the 21st Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia.
Sri Lanka rugby team at the 21st Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia.

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) is planning to have a professional Sevens squad with about 20 contracted players training for three years to target a medal at the Asian Games in 2022.

They have submitted a proposal to the National Olympic Committee and Sports Ministry requesting funds for this ambitious long-term project for the XIX Asiad to be held in Hangzhou, China.

“We have seen our chances of winning a medal in Asian Games is much higher if we have a professional Sevens squad which is separate from the XVs. If they train maybe for three to four years, it is possible to achieve this goal. For that the Union (SLR) cannot do it alone. The government should get involved. Even last time we just missed a medal,” said Sri Lanka’s rugby chief Lasitha Gunaratne.

Sri Lanka nearly made it into their first ever Asian Games gold medal match in Indonesia last year, leading Japan 5-0 and 10-5 in their semi-final before Katsayuki Sakai scored on the stroke of the half-time and a scoreless second half to win 12-10. Korea beat Sri Lanka 36-14 in the bronze medal match.

“We have a good chance of winning a medal in the 2022 Asiad. We have already proposed to Sports Ministry and NOC we want to contract 20 players for next four years. We are waiting for a favourable response,” said Gunaratne.

SLR Deputy President Rizly Illyas also said Sri Lanka has the talent to achieve glory in Sevens.

“If we are to make a mark in rugby we have to target the 2022 Asiad. We have talent and skill but preparation has to start now with three years to go. We have to select only specialist Sevens players like most countries do. We have to invest about 30 to 40 million rupees annually to provide high performance training for the contracted players and take them on short tours overseas to give them confidence of what it takes to win,” he said.

“Who would have thought USA and Canada would win at Sevens. USA has played rugby only for the last 10 years.

They invested in high performance training and good coaches. It is not difficult to get funds if government support is there,” added Illyas.

SLR President Gunaratne said there is no dearth of talent in the country.

“For any sport Sri Lanka has enough talent. The difficult part is how to identify the best talent for team sports like rugby. In individual sports like athletics you know what has to be achieved. The Sports Ministry has a big role to play in encouraging talent by making long-term investments because at the end of the day they are representing the country,” said Gunaratne.

He said they would hire a Sevens coach if their proposal to employ professional players gets the green light.

“In the past we did employ a full time coach and trainer. However, we saw that they were not utilized because when the players are involved for club during season, they won’t be released for national training. If all goes according to plan we will hire a Sevens coach,” added Gunaratne.

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