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11 July 2018 | in World University Championships, Rugby

Breaking new ground at WUC Rugby Sevens

Uncharted territory for Sri Lankan Rugby players

 

For the Sri Lankan men’s team participating at this year’s World University Rugby Sevens Championships, it’s an entirely new and unique experience; one they hope will inspire generations to follow.

The Asian side is one of eleven men’s teams participating in the 8th edition of the FISU Rugby Sevens championships taking place in Swakopmund, Namibia, but it’s a history-making feat for them, with their inclusion in the tournament marking the country’s debut at the event.

Arosha Nuwan Jayathilake, a civil engineering student from the University of Peradeniya, says preparations for the event were carefully planned out.

“We played for our universities, but we heard about this tournament, we all got together and a team was selected,” he explains. “This happened six months ago. They first selected 20 players, and now we are 12 here.

“This is the first time we are participating in such a tournament as a Sri Lankan team.”

Teammate Sasanka Pramuditha Weerakoon, who studies chemical engineering at the same university, says that despite cricket being the biggest sport in Sri Lanka, rugby is in fact gaining many followers in the small South Asian country.

“At club level, rugby is quite big and becoming one of the county’s main sports,” he reveals. “A lot of people are becoming interested, so there is big competition in rugby sevens in Sri Lanka. The schools have started this as children are now playing at school, where we both played as well.”

Both Jayathilake and Weerakoon say they are excited to be at the World University Rugby Sevens Championships, and are enjoying their time in Swakopmund so far.

“We were very excited, as we have never been to Africa,” Jayathilake says.

“It’s really nice here, the opening ceremony was awesome and we’re very excited for our games,” Weerakoon adds.

With traditional rugby powerhouses such as Australia and South Africa also participating in the tournament, Jayathilake knows it will be a tough challenge, but nevertheless hopes his side will gain valuable experience from the games.

“As a team, we are participating for the first time, so we don’t have a set target and will try play up to our standards and to the best of our abilities,” he says.

And despite being one of the smaller countries at the event, Weerakoon feels their mere participation is a sign of things to come for Sri Lanka, as he hopes their presence will inspire local rugby players in future.

“I am in my final year, so I won’t be able to play in another rugby tournament, but I hope next time there will still be a team participating at this event,” he says. “I hope this is just the beginning for Sri Lankan rugby, and something that will continue for many more decades.”

Sri Lanka have been drawn in Pool A for the event alongside Colombia, hosts Namibia and fellow Asian rivals Malaysia, who they face in their tournament opener.

 

 

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