Sri Lankan rugby takes a giant step forward this weekend with the hosting of the Dialog Serendib International Cup, a triangular tournament featuring Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Poland.
Supported by the International Rugby Board, the event will be played over three match days between 26 October and 1 November and is an opportunity to showcase the country’s newly-constructed Racecourse National Stadium, where the matches will be played under lights.
The tournament is also the first of its kind in the Asian region to involve countries outside of Asia.
“This is a good opportunity for Sri Lankan rugby because we have not played against an African and European team for quite a while. This tournament will be good for Sri Lanka, especially going into the Asian 5 Nations Top 5 next year,” said Ronnie Ibrahim, the Sri Lankan national coach.
All three nations are still in mix for Rugby World Cup 2015 qualification and are of a similar standard. Sri Lanka are currently ranked 39th in the IRB World Rankings, while the Madagascans are 44 and the Poles 28th.
Sri Lanka won Division 1 of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations in 2013 to return to Asia’s top flight and will battle in 2014 with Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Philippines for the region's one automatic place at the World Cup in England in 2015.
Madagascar will face Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya in the Division 1A of the Africa Cup, again hosting the tournament in 2014 after attracting crowds over 40,000 in the past.
Poland are currently top of the European Nations Cup Division 1B. After competing in Colombo they face a crucial match at home against Germany, with the winner of Division 1B playing the winner of Israel-Netherlands for the right to play against the third-placed team in Division 1A and try and earn a place in the RWC 2015 repechage round.
The Sri Lankan tournament is the brainchild of the SLRFU’s CEO, Alastair Saverimutto, who has bold ambitions to host up to 12 teams within three years.
“The Dialog Serendib International Cup represents a defining period for rugby in both Sri Lanka and Asia. Cricket has rightfully put Sri Lanka on the world sporting map, however the time has come for rugby to step up onto the world stage. We are without doubt carving a new professional and sporting commercial landscape and I am confident we can break through into the World’s top 25 within three to five years.”
The tournament is set to bring out a carnival atmosphere in Sri Lanka’s main hub Colombo with many events lined up to support and enhance the experience for both players and spectators alike as rugby comes to ‘Serendib’ (formerly Sri Lanka was called Serendib by traders in the Middle East).
For squad news, fixtures and results visit the Sri Lanka Rugby Union website >>
A round-up of the results will also be included in the World Rankings round-up on irb.com next week.