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Are rugby players cracking up under the rigours of heavy training?



by a Special Sports Correspondent

Former rugby player and now a coach and strength and conditioning professional Bilal Yusuf is concerned about the quantum of training done by both school and club rugby players.

It is no wonder that players today are taxed more than their systems can take. The reason, according to Yusuf, could be because these players are following a professional training routine in an amateur system.

Gone are the days when hordes of ex-schoolboy players, just out of school, awaited their turn to play club rugby. Very few among these school leavers walked in straight to the club sides of yesteryear because there was a gap between club and school rugby; in terms of the capacity needed to play senior rugby. But now the training load is basically the same for both club and school players.

And as how Yusuf sees it the players are being over trained. “The present training regimes are extremely demanding on the players. Players are training five days of the week and sessions are held twice a day. At the end of the season there is mental and physical fatigue,” said Yusuf who has also had stints both as a school and club rugby coach and also as the junior national coach for the under 20 Asian Championship. At present, he is a strength and conditioning coach for Sri Lanka Tennis.

There have been occasions where even some of the foreign coaches who have undertaken assignments at local rugby clubs having cautioned that the Sri Lankan players are trying too hard. The game has changed over the years and become more physical and the coaches now demand that their chargers pack on the pounds and spend more time in the gymnasium.

Yusuf sees the present system being counterproductive. “Sometimes doing more might make the players mentally tougher, but certainly it would not do good for the game,” he said. According to him rugby clubs around the world, where the players are not professionals, get their players to train twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday) with a game on Saturday.

But here in Sri Lanka players have to hit the gym in the morning, then shower and go to work and comeback in the evening for rugby practices. Even the sleep they get might not be sufficient. “This is a vicious circle and clubs might not be able to sustain the players in this manner,” opined Yusuf.

But a side like Kandy Sport Club could be an exception because the players are professionals and don’t really have to work, so after the morning training they ideally get to have nap and take a rest. When they comeback for training in the evening their batteries are recharged.

However, club rugby coaches and administrators might not listen to the views of a rugby coach cum trainer like Yusuf because the demands on the coach are high. Most coaches are desperate to hold on to their jobs, so they tax the players to the hilt. Yusuf cautions that school rugby players might be training more than club rugby players, hence the former might be close to total burnout when a season nears an end. We also hear of stories where the schoolboy players in their final year of rugby are skipping the GCE A Level Exam because the demands of rugby training don’t allow these players to balance sport and studies. “The problem with the system is that we might not be grooming these players to balance sport, family and life. The joys of a coach is to see them play top level rugby and when you bump into them in latter years to see them having turned out to be happy and responsible citizens,” said Yusuf.

The taking of supplements in rugby is part and parcel of the game. But some players are becoming too big too soon. “Sometimes the mass they are gaining is unbelievable; which makes us wonder whether these supplements that are given to them contain any illegal substance. The supplement taking of players must be properly monitored. We have enough doubts to suspect that some of these supplements may have performance-enhancing substances,” he said.

Insecure coaches can poison a system and make the players believe that more training is good, when the opposite is true. But there is also another issue regarding the psyche of the players. The majority of schoolboy players who have the brains and capacity to study and make good progress in life give up the sport and concentrate on higher education. The sad part of the equation is that the players who are not academics continue with rugby hence this would mean that ones who are playing club rugby might not be able to think for themselves and can be manipulated. But Yusuf cautioned by saying, “Even if you know that a certain way of eating and training is harmful you just have to follow the demands of the coach because rugby is a team sport and you are not playing for yourself”.

Yusuf concluded the interview by quoting what a foreign coach once gave as his response when someone asked whether he considers himself having done his job properly and having given something back to the game. “This coach said come and meet me in ten years time and ask me how my players are doing and whether they have become better human beings. And if they have then I think I could be considered a successful coach,” concluded Yusuf.

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Yupun continues record-breaking spree  



Yupun Abeykoon improved the men’s 100metres national record at a championship held in Germany on Wednesday.

Sri Lankan is the Asian leader

by Reemus Fernando  

Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon continued his record-breaking spree at a championship in Dessau, Germany as he clocked the fastest time in the men’s 100 metres in Asia this year to win ahead of Kenyan world leader Ferdinand Omanyala on Wednesday.

Abeykoon, who is also the South Asian record holder in the 100 metres clocked 10.06 seconds to win as he took a good chunk of 0.09 seconds off his previous national record.

It is the third time that the 27-year-old has improved the national record in 100 metres.

Abeykoon first took the national record of the 100 metres (10.16 secs) in 2020 before improving it to 10.15 seconds last year.

Abeykoon’s 10.06 seconds is the fastest time in Asia this year as he overtook Abdullah Abkar Mohammed (10.14) of Saudi Arabia and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (10.15) of Japan who had both produced their seasonal best in March.

With Abeykoon winning the 100 metres against a quality field inclusive of Ferdinand Omanyala, who had clocked a world-leading time of 9.85 seconds early this month, it is expected that the South Asian Games medallist would produce the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds for the World Championship soon rather than later.

Athletes are selected for the World Championship through direct qualifying standards and through the world rankings. Of the 48 slots allocated for the track’s showpiece discipline, 27 are selected from those who achieve the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds, for which Abeykoon is just a millisecond behind.

The remaining slots are filled according to the ‘Road to Oregon 2022’ list in which Abeykoon is placed in the 58th position at present. That ranking is set to improve when stats are updated next week.

Abeykoon’s remarkable achievements have come at a time when some of the country’s promising athletes struggle to improve their rankings due to lack of quality competitions here in Sri Lanka.

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Bangladesh top order stumbles after Mathews, Chanidmal hit tons



Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews shared a 199 run stand for the sixth wicket as both batters hit centuries to give Sri Lanka a 141 run lead in the first innings in the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka yesterday.

Sri Lankan seamers cut through the Bangladesh top order in the second innings after centuries from Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal gave the visitors a commanding lead in the second Test in Dhaka yesterday.

Bangladesh were in a dangerous position at 34 for four at stumps on the fourth day and still needing another 107 runs to ward off an innings defeat.

The visitors were all out for 506 runs in the day’s final session, with Shakib Al Hasan claiming his 19th five wicket haul in Test match cricket. Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain finished with four for 148.

The hosts fell into trouble in the sixth over as Asitha Fernando delivered opener Tamim Iqbal his second duck of the Test, returning after a catch in second slip from substitute fielder Kamindu Mendis. It’s the first time in his 67 Test career, Tamim had picked up a pair.

Najmul Hossain (two), Mominul Haque (0) and Mahmudul Hasan (15) followed him in quick succession as Fernando and Kasun Rajitha ripped through the top order to finish with 2-12 and 1-12 respectively.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das, who shared 272 in the first innings and slammed a century each, finished the day on 14 and one.

It followed a day of struggles with the ball, with Bangladesh unable to make any breakthrough until after tea.

Mathews finished Sri Lanka’s spell at the crease unbeaten on 145 while Chandimal made 124 in the pair’s 199-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

The pair dominated the Bangladesh bowlers before Ebadot took Chandimal, with the final five wickets falling in 41 runs.

Mathews, who faced 342 balls and struck 12 fours and two sixes in his second century of the series, was given out caught-behind off Khaled Ahmed on 94 but survived on review.

He was given leg-before again off Mosaddek Hossain at 105 but the decision was reversed.

Chandimal enjoyed a similar lucky spell in the morning session after a caught-behind call on the fourth ball of Mominul’s first over was overturned.

Two balls later the right-hander narrowly survived a stumping chance on 44.

He later hit Ebadot for two successive fours before reaching his century with a single in the same over.

Chandimal hit 11 fours and a six in his 219-ball innings. It was his first Test hundred since 2018.

The first Test between the countries in Chittagong was drawn.

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SLR sees tradition challenged during troubled times 



by A Special Sports Correspondent 

Rugby in Sri Lanka is at a standstill and there are many reasons for this. The main reason for this is Asian Rugby (AR) suspending the membership of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR); the controlling body for rugby in Sri Lanka. The other reason is the chaotic situation in the country which has been brought about largely by the economic crisis.

This puts paid to Sri Lanka taking part in any regional tournaments. That could mean Sri Lanka’s chances of contesting the rugby sevens event of the upcoming Commonwealth Games is also in jeopardy. But there could be a way out of this murky situation for SLR if it conducts the AGM and has a free and fair election. AR is monitoring the rugby activities in Sri Lanka and even sent one of its representatives here to study the situation. AR proposed having the SLR AGM.

Our investigations into the events that have taken place in Sri Lanka’s rugby scene reveal that AR has found out that a democratic atmosphere doesn’t exist within the fraternity that the SLR controls. A representative from AR was here in April to conduct a probe on the rugby set-up here. The probe, according to news reports published in the web and leading national newspapers, revealed that all stakeholders of the game are not equally represented in SLR’s decision-making environment. Also, it has been revealed that the decision taken to suspend the SLR’s membership has been taken with the interest of maintaining Asian Rugby’s principles which are equality, transparency, and accountability.

It is also learned that the AR representative had made it known that the rugby set-up here in Sri Lanka was in need of an Annual General Meeting (AGM). This AGM would be called upon by the National Olympic Committee as desired by AR. A letter indicating the above has been sent to the minister of sports. According to the SLR its AGM is scheduled for August 27.

One of the major issues in local rugby is that Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU)-the union with the highest number of rugby clubs-has been denied voting rights at past AGMs due to the nonpayment of membership fees to the SLR. The clubs within the WPRFU have come together as a force and made a request through the competent authority- appointed by the former sports minister to control rugby-to grant voting rights to individual clubs at the AGM. This is because the WPRFU is facing obstacles in contesting this AGM. This practice of clubs voting at the SLR AGM was done away with many years ago. An SLR official asked why these clubs representatives now want to return to an old system of having voting rights for clubs when most of these individuals, when serving the SLR as officials, were quite happy with provincial unions having voting rights some years ago?

Rugby in Sri Lanka was once a happy family. This writer remembers the manner in which tradition was preserved at past AGMs. There was one year when the bidding present of the SLR (Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union then) Michael Jayasekara was challenged at a vote by another candidate for the post of president. Jayasekara withdrew his nomination at the last hour to ensure maintaining the tradition of the bidding present of the SLR not be contested at a vote.

Rugby AGMs in the past have been ‘healthy’ and camaraderie has prevailed even during a voting for other posts. These get-togethers have been like parties and representatives of clubs and provinces have caught up on old times after the voting concluded and new committees were formed. At present provincial unions are fighting for their ‘pound of flesh’ and dirty politics exists.

Just a few weeks ago the WPRFU organised an open club rugby sevens tournament and received much response from clubs. Several schools were also invited to take part in the tournament. WPRFU officials were quoted in newspapers saying that the purpose of organizing the rugby sevens tournament was to give an opportunity to club players to play rugby sevens because they were denied chances of playing rugby due to the  obstacles caused by the COVID pandemic during the past couple of years.  But the chaotic political and economic situation in the country didn’t support the commencement of this tournament, which was scheduled for May 14. As many as 18 teams had confirmed participation. For the record, last year, the WPRFU conducted the ‘Warriors Cup’ sevens tournament with much success.

In the same manner, the inter-club league rugby tournament is to be discontinued. This is due to the chaotic situation in the country. According to SLR President Rizly Illyas the council is in the process of naming table leaders Kandy SC as the winner; by taking into consideration points accumulated.

When contacted SLR President Rizly Illyas said that he together with his committee, overseeing the rugby operations in the island, has always given blessings to each provincial union to conduct its own tournaments.

The SLR headed by Illyas recorded a victory recently when they managed to bring an interim order suspending the enactment of the Gazette issued by the Ex-sports minister suspending the registration of the SLR with the Ministry of Sports. The interim order was issued by the Court of Appeal and is effective till June 30, according to news reports.

Illyas said that he hopes that there would be a free and fair election.

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