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Preview: Bledisloe Cup

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The annual Bledisloe Cup matches between the NZ All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies start on Saturday the 8th of August in Eden Park. Two games in Eden Park this year and one in Perth. Eden Park they say is the bastion of the New Zealanders a line of thinking that I don’t subscribe to. When a superior team comes to Eden Park they win, and it has little to do with the mysticism created by overly dramatic scribes! Hauling the All Blacks from a single-digit winter to the sub-tropical climes of Perth however will most likely result in a token victory for the Wallabies, badly needed to bolster a flagging fan base, in the light of the depths to which Australian rugby has fallen in recent times.

Great decisions by the All-Black selectors. The captaincy very deservedly given to Sam White lock in the absence due to the injury of Sam Cane. A fantastic midfield with Anton Lennert-Brown exactly where he should be and ably supported by David Havili. Final acknowledgment that Riekko Ioane is not a center and will do a much better job on the wing. Albeit grudging acknowledgment as he will no doubt make many forays into the midfield from his slot in no 11 but hopefully to simply use his speed and not his non-existent passing or decision-making skills! No Barrett’s in the starting lineup a huge call but how can one overlook the silky skills of Ritchie Mo’uanga and the fact that he put the hard yards in during the domestic season in Aotearoa – NZ. “Clutch” McKenzie probably playing for his kicking skills to supplement Mo’uanga whose only weakness seems to be in this area, because his diminutive size as the last line of defence may be questionable. Jordie Barret with his booming kicks to touch and 6’7″ frame is a surprising omission from the starting line-up as full-back. There is some talk however among the pundits of the game that Jordie doesn’t fit the role, another theory that I find hard to subscribe to. Brodie Retallick who seemed to have got a bit soft by playing in Japan, in the second row to join his old mate and captain maybe a 50 – 50 selection as against Scott Barret (who captained the Canterbury Crusaders and played the entire local tournament) but then that is what battle-hardened combinations and the mate ship derived from them is all about.

An incredible bench for the ABs with 3 Barret’s, Dane Coles, and Brad Webber waiting to create havoc in the Wallaby ranks in the last quarter of the game. The Wallabies suffering a major setback with their star winger Marika Koroibete suspended from the game for a late-night drinking session. An already green team full of rookies will definitely miss one of the best wingers in the business.

Writing the Aussies off is always a mistake as breaking the All-Blacks rhythm and spoiling their moves has resulted in the Argentinians and the Brits winning in the recent past. The power of the off-field referee to change the course of the game has also been made very apparent to the detriment of the game. The Wallabies have a Kiwi coach and nothing to lose, a combination not to be scoffed at. Forget the hype about the venue and look forward to some top-class Southern Hemisphere Rugby!



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Dialog powers Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s

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The speed and power of 7’s rugby action is back this month after a lapse of more than a year due to the Covid 19 pandemic, as Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC in partnership with the steering committee, which comprises of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force and Police will kick-off the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s at 9am on October 30 at Police Park.

The commanders of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force together with the IGP of the Sri Lanka Police have assured the fullest support in making this event a success. The Warrior Trophy will also perform as a platform for national selectors to pick the squad for the Asian Rugby men’s 7s series that will be played on November 19 and 20 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The tourney will be played behind closed doors. However, it will be broadcast live on the terrestrial channel Supreme TV (Dialog Television channel number 20) and will also be available via live stream on ThePapare.com and Dialog VIU mobile app. The grand final will be played at the same venue on October 31 from 4 pm onwards. The tourney will be officiated by the Sri Lanka Society of Rugby Football Referees.

Sri Lanka Club Rugby 7’s giants CH & FC and Havelock SC will field their best teams, while Army SC, Navy SC, Air Force SC and Police SC will play with two teams each for the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s 2021 powered by Dialog.

The Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s will be played in accordance with health and safety guidelines mandated by government health authorities to minimize the risk of spreading of Covid 19. Teams will practice in isolation via a bio bubble set up in advance and will undergo regular PCR checks and rapid antigen tests to ensure safety.

“Sports is an integral part of Sri Lankan lives and I’m pleased for the initiative taken by the Steering Committee of Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s to restart rugby in Sri Lanka and the support given by the National Team and Club Rugby sponsor, Dialog Axiata to meet the challenges of organising a tourney of this magnitude in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic,” Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth and Sports said. “A tournament of this level is critical for selection and to prepare players before a grueling tourney like the Asian Rugby men’s 7s series. I wish the Steering Committee and Dialog the very best for two days of excellent 7s play,” he added.

“I’m indeed pleased that one of Sri Lanka’s biggest supporters of national sports, Dialog Axiata has once again come forward to support the game of rugby,” Senior DIG Ranmal Kodituwakku, Chairman, Steering Committee of the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s said.

“With the assistance and guidance of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sports, the Steering Committee of the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s will ensure the tourney will be played in keeping with the health, safety and wellbeing of the participating teams,” Kodituwakku further added.

“As the sponsor of the National Rugby team and Club Rugby, Dialog is pleased to see the progressive steps taken by the Steering Committee of the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s to organise a tournament of this magnitude,” Harsha Samaranayake, Senior General Manager – Brand and Media, Dialog Axiata said. “Rugby is one of the most followed sports in Sri Lanka and the fans are looking forward to see their clubs back in action. I wish the Warrior Trophy Rugby 7s for a successful tourney.”

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Vaas proud of fast bowling strength at Sri Lanka’s disposal

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Rex Clementine in Sharjah

Former fast bowling great Chaminda Vaas has done well to develop a potent fast bowling attack since being roped into the role. The pace that Sri Lanka possess at the moment is quite formidable with three bowlers clocking over 140kmph. While Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have clocked above 145 kmph during the ongoing ICC T-20 World Cup, this week, the third seamer Chamika Karunaratne broke the 140 kmph barrier.

“What we have seen is three guys bowling over 140kmph in tandem. We right now have two guys bowling at 145kmph and Chamika Karunaratne slightly slower than them. Great to see that. I am looking forward to see how they will fare in Test cricket as well. We will have a good time moving forward and exciting times are ahead,” Vaas told a group of Sri Lankan journalists.

Lahiru Kumara was a late addition to the squad but has been quite a handful. He used to be erratic despite possessing raw pace, but right now has got his act together bowling with more accuracy. He also has added a new weapon to his armoury, bowling deadly yorkers.

“Lahiru was in the pool but wasn’t in the squad of 15. We have been doing a lot of work with him trying to develop his skill. He was desperate to get a few things right. His stats in T-20 cricket were not good enough for his immense talent. To his credit, he put in the hard yards. Did a lot of work with our trainer Dilshan Fonseka. I guess those things have stood in good stead during the tournament,” Vaas explained.

The strategy to include Kumara seems to have stemmed from the fact that Sri Lanka realized that teams playing the qualifying round like Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia had not faced extra pace and Kumara had got a last minute nod. “That was the plan. We know these teams play medium pace bowlers lots of the time. So once you have extra pace it can be quite handy. What I am impressed is not just the pace but the control they are showing with the pace. The accuracy has been spot on and I wish they keep doing it as we move forward,” Vaas pointed out.

Vaas has done a few technical adjustments to Kumara’s games and it is paying dividends. “Did a few changes like his run-up and wrist position and especially he trained a lot on bowling yorkers. Just keep a cone and try hitting that. He’s been terrific to be honest. The more you do this stuff as a fast bowler you keep improving. Glad to see Lahiru having that desire to get his act together and the results are there for everyone to see”

Dushmantha Chameera is the leader of the bowling unit and some impressive performances in the home series against India and South Africa earned him an IPL contract. “He has been terrific in the last eight months. He has learned the art of swinging the ball and when you do that with his pace that can be quite handy. He is another guy who works hard on his bowling. You have got to give him credit. He is a very passionate guy who wants to see Sri Lankan cricket doing well.”

Traditionally, your quickest seamers share the new ball, but in T-20 cricket there is a whole lot of new dimension that has come in and it is not so anymore and instead Sri Lanka have opted for Karunaratne. “Chamika can bowl at any point. We used him early because one-side of the Abu Dhabi ground is smaller. When you give him the first over, you can make the best out of Dushmantha and Lahiru. We can keep them for the middle overs and the death overs which is vital. That’s the thinking behind. When we want a wicket we try to bring in the extra pace of those two,” Vaas elaborated.

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Badminton players to fight for half a million rupee prize bag at WPBA Open Championships

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The tournament, organized jointly by WPBA and SLB, will see events conducted under 31 categories, including open men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles as well as age group events for several categories including Under 17, 19, and over 35. 

A total of half a million rupees will be on offer for the winners of the Li – Ning Western Province Badminton Association (WPBA) Open Badminton Championship, which will take place at St. Joseph’s College Indoor Stadium from November 11-14, Sri Lanka Badminton (SLB) announced.

The high profile tournament, organized jointly by WPBA and SLB, will see events conducted under 31 categories, including open men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles as well as age group events for several categories including Under 17, 19, and over 35.

All events will contribute towards national rankings and will be based on SLB Rankings published on the official web portal of the badminton governing body. The shuttlecocks to be used during the matches will be Li Ning, the official partner of the event.

Apart from the lucrative cash awards, all winners, runners-up, and semi-finalists of the Championships will be awarded certificates and trophies/medals.

The Championships will run on a knock-out basis and all matches will be played according to the rules and regulations approved by the BWF and as adopted by SLB.

SLB said that all entries should be handed over to Sri Lanka Badminton, Maitland Place, Colombo 07. According to them, no postal entries would be entertained. Entries close on November 3 at 7.00 pm and accepted entries can be viewed on the SLB website and displayed on the notice boards at SLB from November 5.

The draw will take place on November 8 at SLB Headquarters at 11.00 am and will be published on the SLB Notice Board and the website (www.srilankabadminton.lk) and their facebook page.

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