Sri Lanka Rugby to Kick Off with Commanders Cup

Despite the absence of three major teams, Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) is determined

conduct the Commander’s Cup Rugby 7s as planned, said Nazim Mohamed, its Deputy President. Mohamed revealed that SLR is currently in the process of making the final touches, but “nothing concrete” is taking place as of now, other than the organising process.

“We will put the final format within next week. The tournament will certainly take place as planned,” Mohamed stated.

Since the announcement of the tournament three clubs — namely Kandy SC, CR&FC and CH&FC — announced their unavailability due to different reasons. Kandy SC and CR&FC have reasoned that its players are not in a position to take a career risk as most of them are permanent employees of different trades, while CH&FC’s reason was two of their players being tested positive for COVID-19.

“This tournament is done with the best interest of the game. We know that some clubs have difficulties and we feel sad about it. Our intention is to get all in. Of course clubs are facing challenges, and so do we all,” he asserted.

Yet, Mohamed went on to say, that SLR is being inquired constantly by interested parties if new teams will be entered in place of the three vacant slots. Among the potential teams are a combined team from Kandy and a team from Colombo which includes only school leavers. In addition SLR has had queries from overseas clubs too. By last week certain clubs have confirmed SLR that they would field two teams while teams representing universities too have shown interest to enter the inaugural Commander’s Cup 7s.

“We are planning to play the tournament in two formats. There will be a top tier, where the top division teams will compete, and the remaining teams will come in the bottom tier,” revealed Mohamed.

“We have taken into consideration all inquiries and by the end of next week, we will be able to finalise it. For inquiries from overseas, we have asked them to go through our formats for the tournament and more importantly the local health procedures.”

With the intention of kicking off the two-legged tournament on time from March 20, SLR has instructed all participating teams and stakeholders to go into a ‘bio bubble’ for two weeks, before entering SLR’s main ‘bubble’ 14 days prior to the first whistle.

By the time teams enter their individual ‘bio bubbles’ on February 19, SLR intends to finalise all formalities of the tournament regulations and the number of teams. Players and participating members of the teams will be required to stay in a single facility following health guidelines. They may commence training, but will be not allowed to utilise public transport and will have to undergo three PCR tests in-between the 14 days.

“Then they will enter along with the whole contingent and others into the SLR bubble. The same procedures will be followed here, but SLR and Sri Lanka Air Force will provide all facilities needed. There will be 160 players and 60 others, in total 220 individuals,” Mohamed added.

A sum of Rs 40 million will be taken off the kitty of SLR for the entire tournament, which will be held on March 20, 21 and 26, 27 at the Air Force grounds in Ratmalana. In addition to the commitment given by its main contributor Dialog Axiata PLC, SLR expects to rake in more partnerships for the tournament, which is conducted jointly in association with Sri Lanka Air Force. – The Sunday Times