Emerging force Sri Lanka should not be taken lightly

Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Alvin Sallay South China Morning Post: Christmas has come and gone but it’s still apt to bring out that seasonal jingle ‘You Better Watch Out’ having witnessed the happenings in Sri Lanka over the past few weeks. Rugby is taking off in a big way under the stewardship of Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union president Asanga Seneviratne, who revealed that plans to include foreign players in the national teams at 15s and sevens was underway. As I pack my bags to return to Hong Kong, the jingle rings through my mind – You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why . . . Sri Lanka is coming to town. Things are moving in the right direction in Colombo and Hong Kong better beware. It might not happen in May when the two sides clash in the Asian Five Nations, but very soon the island nation will be a force to be reckoned with if internecine politics doesn’t interfere. Since Seneviratne took over as president two years ago, a marked change has come about and there is an air of optimism blowing through the set-up. A major feature is the renewed interest in club rugby with the Premier Division clubs all investing heavily to the tune of between US$ 1.5 million and US$ 2.5 million per season on players and foreign coaches. A top foreign player – there are around 40 – is paid up to US$ 4,000 a month, plus accommodation and food, and this has seen an influx of talent from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. Clubs are being encouraged to hire young players who are committed to staying for three years or more when they will become eligible to represent Sri Lanka under the existing IRB residency requirements. “We are also looking at the Sri Lankan Diaspora overseas, and trying to build up a data base of young talent whose parents emigrated to England, Australia and so on over the past couple of decades,” says Seneviratne.