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DateLine Sunday, 22 April 2007

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Leaves on inaugural Mihin Air Flight to Dubai on Tuesday

National side yet to be approved

RUGBY: The Sri Lanka national rugby side is down to play Arabian Gulf in their first game of the Asian Nations Tournament in Sharjah on Friday (April 27) and are scheduled to leave the island on Tuesday (April 24) on our own Mihin Air in its inaugural flight to Dubai.

However, it's disappointing to note that the Ministry of Sports, have yet to approve the 22-member national side up to yesterday (Saturday), though submitted for approval last Wednesday (April 18).

A pool of 30 players were selected and underwent two "trials" on April 12 and 16 before the final 22-member team was picked by the national selectors. They were coached by New Zealander Rob Yale (who replaced George Simpkin) assisted by Sudath Sampath and Nishantha Chanaka.

The President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU), DIG Nimal Lewke, further said that D. U. M. Jayatilleke, Sajith Lal (trainer, who underwent training in Cuba for six years) and Nalaka Hewabandu (motivator) too assisted in the training of the national side, while Lasitha Gunaratne, one of the national selectors, will also be on the touring squad as an "Observer" with Captain Nanayakkara as Manager. Sri Lanka will play Kazakhstan in their next game on May 8 at Almaty.

Meanwhile, Rushman's, the Private Security organisation contracted by the International Rugby Board (IRB) to report on the security situation in Sri Lanka in view of the forthcoming Asiad to be staged in Colombo from November 3 to 10, were in contact with DIG Lewke last week.

"Their tone was a bit positive and things are moving well and I am certain that the Asiad will go ahead as planned in November in Colombo" said a confident DIG Lewke. This will be the final Asiad to be conducted by the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU).

In future this tournament will be worked off in two tiers - the first five nations playing each other in one, while the rest of the nations play in another similar format.

Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea will play in the Cup category, while the nine teams for the Plate/Bowl are Sri Lanka, India, Arabian Gulf, Kazakhstan, Thailand, China, Chinese Taipei, Singapore and Malaysia.

The Asiad was earlier scheduled for November 18 to 25 last year (2006) in Colombo, but was not held due to security concerns raised by Hong Kong, Singapore and Arabian Gulf.

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