by Ravi Nagahawatte
Women’s rugby in Sri Lanka is likely to receive more attention and recognition with the World Rugby’s policy of giving equal status to both men and women at international tournaments. This is why spectators are seeing a women’s tournament being run concurrently with any men’s tournament with Sri Lanka too following the new path rugby has taken to.
The island’s women took to rugby much later than men, but most male players would vouch that if not for their female better halves they might not have achieved so much as players.
Women’s rugby in Sri Lanka began in the late 1990s when the SLR initiated a provincial training programme. The key person involved with this programme was the late B.K Ramachandran and subsequently Maurice Perera was roped in to assist in the programme. Sri Lanka fielded a women’s team to contest the coveted Hong Kong Sevens in 2002 and received much attention.
Sri Lanka’s women’s rugby since then has been concentrated around the forces and Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club.
Sri Lanka’s female rugby players have earned invitations to play in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Sevens Series.
Women’s rugby has also received much attention and support over the years. Recently the Pakistan High Commissioner in Sri Lanka on behalf of the Government of Pakistan promised to sponsor women’s rugby tournaments at district level. This is a positive and good sign that confirms that women’s rugby exists and is noticed in this island nation.
A few months ago SLR appointed S.W Chang as the High Performance Chairman for Women’s Rugby in Sri Lanka.
S.W Chang said that he has had discussions with the Deputy Director of Education to bring the girls participation into rugby at national school games level.
“We’ve had zoom meetings with provincial union secretaries and asked them to feed us with information about what they did in the past, what they’re doing now and what’s planned for the future. Council Members Rear Admiral H.A.U.D Hettiarachchi and Dr. Samantha Nanayakkara are supporting me in promoting women’s rugby,” said Chang.
He said that Sri Lanka must also look at the possibility of recruiting ladies living overseas and have Sri Lankan roots,” he said.
Dr.Samantha Nanayakkara, Council Member SLR, said that the last appearances by the ladies at international tournaments suggested that the national team needs more young ‘blood’.
SLR President Rizly Illyas said that he is glad that the forces teams took part in all the domestic tournaments and added that he is sure this will help in going forward with women’s rugby in Sri Lanka.