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20th Singer Rugby Asiad

Sri Lanka likely to figure in ‘Plate’ final with Arabian Gulf

With the withdrawal of Pakistan and Iran at the 11th hour and with a new format introduced for the 20th Singer Asian Rugby Championship, to be staged in Colombo from November 17 to 25, Sri Lanka, are strongly tipped to play in the ‘Plate’ category and likely to figure in the final with Arabian Gulf.

Sri Lanka will play their first game against India on November 18 in the Plate/Bowl category, while the other qualifying games scheduled for the day are Kazakhstan vs Thailand, China vs Chinese Taipei and Singapore vs Malaysia with Arabian Gulf drawing a bye. The winners of these four games will play with Arabian Gulf and play in the ‘Plate’, while the losers play for the ‘Bowl’.

Sri Lanka should comfortably beat India and this means that they will meet the winners of the Kazakhstan vs Thailand game. The Lankans beat both Kazakhs (19-25 and 24-12) and Thais (48-38) in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) Asian qualifiers, and should figure in the final with Arabian Gulf.

Pakistan were forced to withdraw due to financial problems, while Iran failed to name their team before the deadline last week, though entering in July.

Apart from the ‘Plate’ and ‘Bowl’ category, the Singer Asiad will also see Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong playing in the Cup category which is also the RWC Asian qualifier with the winners to play in the finals of the RWC in France next year (2007). These games are Japan vs Hong Kong on November 19, Hong Kong vs South Korea on November 22 and Japan vs South Korea on November 25.

The ‘Plate’ final too is scheduled for November 25, while the ‘Bowl’ final has been fixed for November 22.

The Chairman of Singer (Sri Lanka) Limited, Hemaka Amarasuriya addressing a media briefing at the Galadari Hotel last week, was of the opinion that Sri Lanka had the capacity to at least reach the zenith in the Asian region and rugby attain a similar status as cricket in the country. He further said that the ICC Champions Trophy held in Colombo in 2002 was the biggest sporting event thus far in terms of team involvement, but the Singer Asiad could also be huge and become the second biggest in terms of it being a regional event. Amarasuriya also disclosed that his firm (Singer) has pumped in Rs. 10 million for the forthcoming Singer Rugby Asiad.

The President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU), Priyantha Ekanayake, said that the initial security concerns shown by Japan had been allayed and VIP level security will be provided for every team at both the host hotel, Galadari, and each of the three designated match venues (Sugathadasa Stadium, Longden Place and Royal College Sports Complex).

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the SLRFU, Dilroy Fernando, made a presentation regarding the Singer Asiad, and said that all matches will be officiated by a panel of international referees assigned by the International Rugby Board (IRB) along with a few top referees from Asia. He also said that eight games will be telecast live by Sirasa TV, but the SLRFU are looking into the possibility of Ten Sports or Star Sports to telecast games for overseas viewers. The IRB’s “Total Rugby” crew too will be in Sri Lanka.

Singer (Sri Lanka) Limited are the title sponsors of the 20th Asiad with the co-sponsors being Sri Lanka Telecom (Mobitel), Toyota and Ceylon Cold Stores (CCS), with Galadari Hotel, Zeppelin, Carlsberg, SriLankan Airlines, HemTours, Casilan 90, Excel World and John Keells Office Automation (Pvt) Limited as the specific sponsors.

Sri Lanka finished in 10th position at the 19th Asiad in Hong Kong in 2004 ahead of only India and Pakistan. The Lankans figured in the ‘Bowl’ category and beat Pakistan 75-3, but lost to China (16-30) in the final.

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