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Rugby fraternity concerned over snail-paced preparations for Carlton Sevens

Preparations for the upcoming Carlton Sevens international rugby sevens tournament are taking place at a snail’s-pace, which has the rugby fraternity concerned.

The Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union’s (SLRFU) Interim Administration has appointed former national player Imthi Marikar as national sevens coach, but no letter has been issued to him regarding his appointment.

Dr. Maiya Gunasekere, Chairman, Rugby Interim Committee confirmed Marikar’s appointment as national sevens coach when contacted. It is learnt that Marikar has been verbally told of his appointment by the SLRFU and is awaiting an official letter from the authorities to begin training the players. The Carlton Sevens is scheduled for November 28 and 29 in Colombo, but the Sri Lanka team so far, hasn’t had even a day’s training.

Dr. Gunasekere rubbished claims that the players would be under trained for the tournament by saying, "they have played enough rugby throughout the year. Most of the players also took part at the recent Mercantile Sevens, so no one can say that the players have not trained."

There are also concerns as to whether the tournament committee could ensure the smooth running of the tournament, because most of the country’s top referees have made their services unavailable, probably due to a dispute with the Rugby Interim Committee regarding outstanding payments.

Rugby Interim Committee CEO Lasitha Guneratne said that there wouldn’t be a shortage of referees and added that the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) had promised to provide five top referees to officiate at the tournament.

The country’s most celebrated referee, Dilroy Fernando said that he had acceded to a request made by the SLRFU to officiate in the Carlton Sevens tournament. He however, added that he had inquired from the SLRFU who would be the referee coach at the international sevens tournament. "The role of referee coach should be played by an experienced professional. Assignments would be given at the tournament based on the match reports of the referee coach, so I have told the SLRFU that referees would like to see a professional being appointed to perform that task," Fernando said.

He has stated, in his response to the SLRFU letter, that the SLRFU should settle outstanding payments to match officials and also conduct the SGM for referees. He also stressed that though referees, including him, were registered with the SLRFU, there was no binding contract between the two parties and hence referees would officiate at matches, assigned to them by the SLRFU, only when they were free. Rugby Interim Committee CEO Guneratne acknowledged the fact that he had received a letter from Fernando stating these facts.

Fernando, the President of the Society for Rugby Referees in Sri Lanka, whose committee was suspended by the Sports Ministry, said leading referees had made themselves available for assignments at the Carlton Sevens to ensure the country didn’t earn a bad name during the two day international tournament.

Newly appointed coach Marikar has requested for a fitness trainer for the national sevens team, but it is learnt that the country’s most sought after trainer, M. Jayatilake, is highly unlikely to accept the assignment due to the unavailability of the cream of the country’s rugby players who are banned from representing the national team.

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