What the ruck is happening to rugby in the country? | Sunday Observer

What the ruck is happening to rugby in the country?

27 August, 2023
The inimitable Dilroy Fernando unveils his latest show  (Pic: Sudath Nishantha)
The inimitable Dilroy Fernando unveils his latest show (Pic: Sudath Nishantha)

With the Sri Lanka rugby team shut out from next month’s Asian Games in China and frantic efforts underway for its reinstatement, one man with the charisma to do almost anything in the field has launched out on a campaign to promote another format to keep an audience that cannot get enough on their toes.

He is none other than the inimitable and inseparable former Sri Lanka fly-half and one time international referee Dilroy Fernando who can entice a big media turnout to answer his call even at short notice with the might of global giant Red Bull behind him.

Fernando has been making vast strides on and off the field while elected Sri Lanka Rugby officials have being tip-toeing for more than two years playing survival games and fighting their cases in court.

He has chosen to call his latest introduction to Sri Lankan rugby followers with slogans like ‘What the Ruck’ and ‘Red Bull Offside’ which may sound like a free for all but in reality a format of the sport where players will also be yellow or red carded and Judicial officers behind the scene to book players for foul and illegal play.

“It’s a little bit of rugby and a little bit of (American) football and supporters will not have to shout off-side at the referee, that is allowed”, said Fernando.

As many as 24 teams are listed to contest the one-day championship on September 2 on the hallowed turf at Longden Place in Colombo the home of the Red Shirts and according to Fernando it will be the fastest format that fans can witness with eight women’s outfits also on show.

The whole concept may sound weird, with off-sides and forward passes allowed and the referee kicking the ball from the touchline so players can grab it to herald the start of play.

But Fernando, who has successfully justified all his moves, contends the new format of rugby must be seen to believe.

“We discussed this concept eight months ago and here we are ready to start and this could be the one tournament where teams and coaches will have no complaints about the referees,” said Fernando who in April this year played a major ground breaking role in directing CR and FC’s Centenary Sevens spiced with foreign flavour.

Some of the teams in the fray call themselves names like Untouchables, Hard Boiled Eggs, Green Lions and Maroon Sharks.