Frank Hadden hopes to have inspired a host of new rugby enthusiasts in Sri Lanka after the former Scotland coach spearheaded a clinic at an SOS Children’s Village outside Colombo on Thursday in the latest leg of the HSBC ARFU (Asian Rugby Football Union) Rugby Coaching Tour.
The coaching clinic in Piliyandala featured 25 boys and six girls ranging from ages of 11 to 18, who also came from the country’s four other SOS Children’s Villages in Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Anuradhapura and Monaragala. There were also three youngsters from Jaffna, where another SOS community is being built.
“I have been looking forward to this trip ever since I presented the Sri Lankans with their Division I trophy in Singapore last year," said Hadden, who coached Scotland from 2005 to 2009.
“They love rugby here and although a lot of the kids hadn’t played before, they showed natural ability and an appetite for some of the game’s essentials like teamwork. And most importantly, they enjoyed themselves.
“The SOS Children’s Village is an inspiring set-up and it’s amazing what they’re doing for the kids. I know a lot of them are also excited about going to watch Saturday’s game, so let’s hope Sri Lanka can win.”
Many of the youngsters will attend and act as mascots at Sri Lanka’s opening HSBC Asian five Nations match against the UAE on Saturday.
The game kicks off at 4.00pm at the Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club (CR&FC), where a large crowd is expected as the rugby-mad country embraces its debut in the Top Five of the continent’s premier 15-a-side national team competition.
Hadden and Japan coach John Kirwan will lead this year’s HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour, with support from the HSBC Penguin International Coaching Academy. Hadden spearheaded last year’s inaugural Coaching Tour through Asia and admitted Sri Lanka was high on his wish list for this year’s schedule.
“Last year, one of the most amazing things was finding rugby thriving in countries you wouldn’t expect and this year I’m really looking forward to going back to some of these places as well as going for the first time to the likes of Sri Lanka,” Hadden said.
“The Sri Lanka team really impressed me last year. They played a very sophisticated brand of rugby and back then I had no idea they had such a long tradition of rugby and the fact they have 100,000 players, which is more than twice as many as there are in Scotland. Perhaps it was no surprise that they played so well last year. I’m confident they’ll do well again this time.”