World's top 40 rugby sevens starts say yes to Calton sevens


 by Ravi Nagahawatte

The organizer of the Carlton Sevens rugby tournament announced on Monday that the top 40 rugby sevens players in the world have committed themselves to play in Sri Lanka’s annual rugby showdown.

Namal Rajapaksha, representing the Organizing Committee of Carlton Sports, the organizer of the tournament, told media representatives in Colombo that efforts are being made to lift the standard of the third edition of the Carlton Sevens a few notches, both in terms of quality and entertainment. The names of the top 40 rugby sevens players however weren’t released to the media yesterday.

Rajapaksha, a national rugby player and Member of Parliament, said each team will have a mix of foreigners, club players and schoolboys. Like last year, the inclusion of schoolboys is a must in each team. Rajapaksha went on to say that under 20 players were the country’s future and they should gain vital experience by being part of a tournament like the Carlton Sevens which will attract the best rugby sevens players in the world.

As with the entertainment, Rajapaksha said, "several Indian artistes are expected to perform alongside the Sri Lankan players. The organizer wants to make it a history making event in rugby sevens".

The Carlton Sevens comprises two legs, one in Kandy (May 26-27) and the return in Colombo (June 2-3). "The Kandy leg will not have too much entertainment due to the presence of the Dalada Maligawa. But the Colombo leg will be full of entertainment. Colombo will help host the tournament in a big way because it has more hotels compared to Kandy and can house a lot of teams," he said.

Rajapaksha was of the opinion that Sri Lanka hadn’t achieved much in rugby despite its long history and added that a tournament like Carlton Sevens will help Sri Lanka make worthwhile progress in rugby union.

The Carlton Sevens organizers have scheduled the annual rugby tournament to be played on selected dates in the months of May and June because by that time the World Series Sevens would have concluded and most of the international rugby sevens stars would be available to contest Sri Lanka’s rugby version of India’s cricket IPL.

He said there would be ten franchises bidding for players and the international players will be paid in keeping with IRB rates for professionals which would be a minimum of US$ 411 a day. He said last year, local players weren’t paid anything less than rupees 5000 per day.

Rajapaksha also said that a tournament like the Carlton Sevens will help national rugby and added, "The Asian Sevens Series is in June and this tournament will help prepare the players for that as well".

A point of concern this time would be the absence of local referees because the organisers have opted to hire the services of foreigners to officiate in matches. He said this step had to be taken due to teams complaining about the poor standard of local referees at last year’s tournament.

Rajapaksha revealed that there was a shortage of good sevens players in the island. "Kandy SC has told us that they can’t release their best sevens players for the tournament. We will not go and plead with them to release the players. They (Kandy SC) have about four or five sevens players, but what’s the use, they haven’t represented the country," said Rajapaksha who added that club politics in the rugby scene has to be brought to an end, once and for all.

He said that the second leg of the Carlton Sevens will be loaded with entertainment and that matches will commence at 1pm each day and continue under floodlights.

Former Sri Lanka coach and technical adviser George Simpkins will be the tournament organizer for the third consecutive year.

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