Schools rugby at the crossroads
When Scottish Tea planter James Taylor introduced the Tea plant he
also carried a bagful of British traditions that reshaped Ceylon (how
Sri Lanka was then known). Apart from the Railways, Roads, bridges and
tea estates they also brought a rich culture of rugby traditions that
got firmly rooted initially in the plantation clubs and spilled over to
the schools with Kingswood College, Kandy becoming the first school to
take up to Rugby in 1891.
Since then up to about 1960 schools like Trinity, Royal, St Peter's,
Zahira, St Thomas', St Joseph's, Thurstan and Wesley took up to rugby.
This was an exciting beginning with Bradby Shield for Royal vs. Trinity
being introduced and rugby became a popular sport among the schools.
School Rugby was administered by the Schools section of the CRFU.
During this era schools section operating under CRFU had some
dedicated school masters like, M T Thambapillai, Archibald Perera,
Donald Munasinghe (better known in boxing circles) and Lal Kumarasinghe
to name a few.
Traditionally the Schools season ended up with the popular Colombo vs
Outstations game for the Gratiaen Cup that became a hunting ground for
talent scouts of the clubs.
Final stage of the tournament was the match between Combined Schools
and Combined Universities (then playing in the "A" division) another
This was a peaceful era with least intervention from politicians and
However, in later years with more and more schools coming in to the
fray schools section broke away and set up their union in 1995 to be
independent of the principal body, with changing times quite rightly
School masters took control but sadly majority of them lacked a rugby
background. Since then School Rugby went from crisis to crisis and
schools often had to march to Hulfsdorp to seek justice. These
litigations disrupted the school Rugby season.
In fact in recent times many offences were reported from a school the
head of which was also the President of the Schools Rugby Association.
Time and again litigations came up and to some extent the friendly
relationships between schools too became a casualty.
We now hear that trouble is brewing with schools body in complete
disarray bending the rules that will kill the spirit of this noble game.
Traditionally each year the two top teams of the 'B' Division are
promoted to "A" Division with the team that ended up last in the "A"
Division being demoted to "B" Division.
It is reliably understood that a third team (whose principal is now a
key official in the schools body) is to be promoted violating all known
rules and norms, and the team to be demoted to "B" is refusing to go
down as a protest against this unsporty move.
Undoubtedly we could expect more battles in the courts than scrums
and line outs in the playing fields. This is an unfortunate tragedy
resulting in hatred, displeasure and disunity - is this what we want in
Sri Lanka that was saved from conflict and disaster by none other than
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who always played the game within rules
during his school days. One hopes that saner counsel would prevail and
the rich legacy of Rugby be preserved for the sake of the younger
Rugby is a game played to make friends and not to spread hatred and
enmity compounded by disruption to the tournament.