By Shamseer Jaleel
The Sri Lanka Sevens outfit led by Sudarshan Muthuthanthri ended the Asian Qualifier for the Rio Olympics at number 4 position at the Hong Kong Rugby Stadium over last weekend in the 10 team event.
Japan claimed the Rio berth from Asian region while the other three teams Hong Kong, South Korea and Sri Lanka, will move in to the repachage process.
At half-time Hong Kong were up 10/0 through two tries but Asian champions Japan regrouped and scored four unanswered tries in the second half to book their place in the Rio Olympics with a 24/10 victory. Japan women too stamped their class overcoming a brave Kazakhstan outfit 22/0 to have a very good chance to move to Rio along with their men’s team.
The final position will be known at the end of this month at the Tokyo sevens where the total points in both legs in Hong Kong and Japan will be taken in to decide on the Asian spot for the women’s outfit to Rio.
The Sri Lanka men’s team beat Iran 31/10, Malaysia 24/10, Philippines 50/5 and lost to Hong Kong 12/27, Japan 0/43 and South Korea 21/26. Better known as Asia’s Fijians, Sri Lanka produced some excellent rugby in the tournament, which even the top team feared, but in defense they looked all over at times. With the ball they try to do too many things at the same time and cost the team some valuable points plus the Korean game for third place. But sadly for Sri Lanka the gap between top two and number 3 and 4 is getting wider tournament after tournament which the SLRFU administrators should look in to and work on the future.
On tour selectors need to have a look at the team; some ageing players in the outfit should be replaced with young blood even at Junior level (Under 20). It would be good to bring them for some good exposure for future tournaments to balance with youth and experience in the side. Shehan Pathirane’s miss was felt badly in the tournament with his high ball collection, defense and attacking play. Gayan Weeraratne, Sooriyabandara, Dhanushka Ranjan and Richard Dharmapala stood out for Sri Lanka.
The 12th placed team for Rio will be decided through a 16 team repechage event which Sri Lanka will participate along with South Korea and Hong Kong through Asian region. There will be teams from Africa (3), Europe (4), North America (2), South America (2), and Oceania (2).
Women’s rugby needs an urgent revamp if they want to stay in contention for top three in Asia. The girls badly need a sponsor and a talent search around the country for some good players from rural areas would be a good choice rather than selecting from the same 20 players in tandem.