In a bid to make ‘the most popular rugby competition of the world” the Indo Pacific Rugby Union Championship has conferred its interest on Sri Lanka to be one of the destinations for the inaugural competition.
A brainchild of the Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest who is a keen follower of the sport initiated the Indo Pacific Rugby Union (IPRU) after the Australian Rugby Union axed the Western Force team from the Super Rugby competition.
Initiating an international tournament with the inclusion of international clubs, the tournament committee has shortlisted key cities in the Indo -Pacific region that include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, the Pacific Islands along with Sri Lanka.
The rugby fanatic, Forrest speaking to the smh.com.au spoke about how he feels about the rugby following in Sri Lanka,
Years ago, I met Sri Lankan cricket great Muttiah Muralitharan by chance in South Africa. I was shocked when he asked me who we were playing. “How do you know me?” I asked. He explained that, while cricket was Sri Lanka’s most popular sport, rugby was a close second. We all know you, Muralitharan insisted.
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Yesterday (2nd) the officials from the IPRU met with the Minister of Sports Hon. Dayasiri Jayasekara as well as officials from Sri Lanka Rugby to ascertain the possibilities of shortlisting Colombo as one of the locations for the competition.
The proposed 6-team 33 game tournament is set to span over a period of four months with home and away rounds building up to final.
Speaking to the media on the meeting with the IPRU officials, Dayasiri Jayasekara added that it will be a great boost for Sri Lanka in terms of playing standard and is expected to bring in new life to the sport.
The IPRU is set to provide Sri Lankan players with a first-hand experience with international rugby with its participation while giving the opportunity for the Lankan origin rugby union players to play with the best.
Speaking to Abc.net.au earlier last month, Andrew Forrest is confident that his proposed tournament will be a reality in the coming year.
“We’ve got strong encouragement from World Rugby. It’s fair to say that the ARU (Australian Rugby Union) obviously have a lot more work and a lot more thinking to do around this. This is the biggest thing to happen to Australian Rugby in a very long time, so the ARU board are really putting in the work to assess it and to optimize it for Australian rugby.”
He is set to present his vision for the tournament at a World Rugby board meeting next month.
While talks are currently underway to decide whether Colombo is an ideal location for the competition, the national body will have to find the right fit for the tournament in its 12-month rugby calendar. With a club rugby season spanning from November to February followed by the sevens, Sri Lanka will ideally like to see the tournament in between the transition.