Return of the prodigious son

CR&FC contracts Sri Lankan born Nigel Ratwatte who brings with him the experience of having played competitive rugby in South Africa and Mauritius

Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club (CR&FC) is blessed this season to have the services of a talented youth player in Nigel Ratwatte who carries with him the experience of having played competitive rugby in South Africa and Mauritius.

He is just 20-years-old and is delighted in having been offered a contract with CR&FC, which once again seems like posing the biggest threat to reigning champs Kandy SC, amongst the clubs based in Western Province.

He told Sunday Island Sporstar that he was looking forward to CR&FC beating Kandy SC this season.

"They (Kandy SC) haven’t seen CR as yet. We have a very young team and I believe CR has the abilities to make the necessary changes and be better than last season," said Ratwatte, who arrived in Sri Lanka last year.

He had had his initial education here in Sri Lanka, at Trinity College Kandy, and migrated abroad at the age of 13. Before leaving Sri Lanka, he had taken to rugby at Trinity and had even captained the school’s under-13 team with success. His father, Bathiya, probably didn’t influence him much to take to rugby because he didn’t play the sport. However, there might have been some influence from the part of his second cousins Ashan and Lohan Ratwatte for him to play rugby because the duo are known personalities in the Sri Lanka rugby circle.

The reason for Ratwatte to migrate abroad was to join his parents who are in Mauritius. The stint in Mauritius culminated with him playing competitive rugby there and then being picked to represent the national under-18 team during a tour of Madagascar.

He has fond memories of South Africa and said that he schooled at the famous King Edwards the V11th, in Johannesburg. He focused on finishing his education there and was successful in completing the Matrix Examination which is equivalent to the Sri Lanka’s Advanced Level Exam. "I played some rugby there and was even invited by a club in South Africa to continue my rugby with them. But by then my parents had spoken to the authorities at CR&FC and made arrangements for me to come back to Sri Lanka," he said. Asked whether he missed the cultures in South Africa and Mauritius, he said, "There is no culture in these countries, the culture is in Sri Lanka".

According to Ratwatte his parents had met CR&FC President Jehan Cannagaretna in Sri Lanka and struck a deal for him to represent the ‘Red Shirts’. "The club authorities hadn’t seen me playing so my parents sent them some videos of me and that’s how it all happened, "reminisced Ratwatte.

He said he was very impressed with the standard of rugby in Sri Lanka and added,

"These guys have a lot of skill and the people at the club are very nice and friendly,"

The guy has a lot of skill and it didn’t come as a surprise when he earned his place in the starting line-up as CR’s fly half in the match against Police. He said that CR was tying hard to beat a champion team like Kandy SC and it was in this kind of environment that the best in him surfaced.

He said he liked the 15-a-side version of rugby because it offered everybody more playing time and the chance to play a very physical game. Despite saying this Ratwatte grinned and said he was one of the smallest players back in South Africa, weighing only 74 kilos. He still weighs pretty much the same.

Ratwatte said that he has plans of representing Sri Lanka at rugby.

"I have followed Sri Lanka rugby through the media and know that they had done well at the Asian Five Nations and also when they last played in the Hong Kong Sevens. Playing for Sri Lanka is an exciting prospect," he said. Ratwatte said that he was eligible to represent his motherland at rugby because when he represented Mauritius, it wasn’t an IRB affiliated nation.

He said that national players had to play in at least five international matches an year to gain the necessary experience if they wished to be competitive in the international scene.

Ratwatte is at present employed at John Keels and his work is closely associated with import and export. As much as he wants to continue his rugby and represent Sri Lanka, his future plans also include becoming a pilot.

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