Rugby union in Sri Lanka is mainly played at a semi-professional and recreational level. It is a popular team sport with a history dating back to 1879. In 2012, according to International Rugby Board figures, there were over 103,000 registered rugby union players in Sri Lanka, making it the second largest rugby-playing nation in Asia, behind Japan.
The sport is popular among the Sri Lankan expat community living in the USA and Canada. Thus the Sri Lankan Schools Tag Rugby 7’s Tournament held annually in DC on the Sunday before Memorial Day, is the premier sporting and family event for the Sri Lankan community in North America.
The tournament has been organized by the Trinity College Kandy Alumni Association of Washington DC (TCKAA) and the DC Thomians’ (DCT) since 2002. In the words of one of the founders, Dilshan Senenayake; the story of the tournament is as follows.
“I was at Daha’s (Lasantha Dahanaike) one evening when Umanga (Abeysekera) joined us and we got talking about the upcoming LA 7s; specifically our inability to attend. At this point I said ‘if we can’t go to LA, why don’t we bring LA to DC’. The Thomians looked quizzical, but I clarified ‘why don’t the OBA’s of TCK and STC start a schools 7s in DC’, being rugby types the boys jumped in head-first while agreeing that the team needed Kiri (Dasarath Kiridena) to complete it.
Promptly the boys got busy getting the word out being better known than I within he wider DC Sri Lankan community to gauge up-take. I must say the support, not only the expected one from the respective OBAs but from the wider community was massive. Soon we were banking on this goodwill for leads on grounds, venue for evening social, food, music and importantly for teams to take part.
For my part, I did a brief study of the LA and London tourney models, their history, participation figures, strength/weaknesses and identified tag-rugby, though novel at the time, as giving us the best chance to attract players and be sustainable.
From the beginning we were keen to exploit the strong bond Sri Lankans had with their school’s rugby and collectively agreed on strict eligibility criteria that strengthened it. I incorporated this and other guidelines into the original tournament constitution and secured Textcentric from Sri Lanka to sponsor the inaugural tourney and website. One of the biggest challengers in 2002 was getting potential teams to buy into the concept of tag rugby. In order to facilitate this we organized bi-weekly practice sessions at least a month before the tourney at a local school park which was well received with large numbers attending these practises.
This then is how the 1st ever DC tag 7s came into being in May of 2002 with 10 teams vying for honours. While there were many from both TCK and STC who worked tireless to make this tourney a reality it is the support received from brother schools SPC, RC, Maris Stella and especially Zahira that not only helped make it happen, but a roaring success that first year”.
Sevens is on the rise internationally as the newest sport to be added to the Olympic roster, debuting in Rio 2016. Touted as one of the most exciting spectator sports on the market, Sevens is a knock-down, drag-out show of power, speed and agility featuring just seven players a-side covering a full-size rugby pitch. Scoring is frequent, and feats of extreme athleticism are jammed into every play of each short game. The best part is, you don’t have to know anything about rugby to fall in love with the spectacle, and it doesn’t take long to figure the game out if you try.
Conventional Sevens Rugby is a variant of rugby union featuring just seven players a-side, playing on a full-size field by much of the same rules as the original 15-player game. While a regular rugby union match lasts at least 80 minutes, a sevens match consists of two halves of seven minutes with a one-minute half-time break. The final of a competition can be played over two halves of ten minutes each, with a half-time break of two minutes.
Flag sevens is a variant of the conventional sevens game that incorporates the excitement that is sevens Rugby and the recreational aspect of touch rugby. Using two flags around the waist (similar to flag football), removal of which are treated as being similar to a tackle in the full contact version; the game is made easier to referee and understand for the general public in the US. Flag rugby uses two halves of five minutes each, with a one minute break; and a final consists of two seven minute halves with a two minute break.
The Rules in a Snapshot
- Seven players per team compete on the field.
- A minimum of 4 players on the field should be from the school being represented.
- Each team gets three substitutes, with three interchanges.
- Five-minute halves, with seven-minute halves allowed in the final.
- Matches tied after regulation time are continued into extra time, extra time will be five minutes.
- Conversion attempts are drop-kicked.
- Conversions must happen within 30 seconds of scoring a try.
- Scrums include only three players per side.
- Kick-offs: the team which has just scored kicks off.
- Yellow cards get a 2-minute suspension in the sin-bin. Suspensions hurt more in Sevens
- than in Fifteens. Losing 1 man out of 7 opens up an incredible amount of space for their