GOLD COAST, Winning a medal at the Asian Games in August will be the top priority for Sri Lanka rugby sevens captain Sudarshana Muthuthantri who believes a good performance at the Commonwealth Games will be a stepping stone towards achieving that goal.
The men’s rugby sevens competition gets underway this weekend, April 14-15, at Robina Stadium and Sri Lanka’s campaign is most likely to last one day, Saturday, as they are grouped with sevens giants Fiji, Wales and Uganda in the preliminaries.
“Realistically the Asian Games is our top priority this year, but we are looking forward to taking on the big boys, especially Fiji,” Muthuthantri revealed. The Sri Lankan sevens squad have been training for the past 10 days in the Gold Coast. Their opening match will be against Fiji, winners of the Hong Kong Sevens last weekend.
A change in the format will see only the winner progressing into the medal rounds with the runner-up ending in a classification stage. The two bottom-place teams in the four groups will have to pack their bags.
“It will be tough coming up against Fiji and Wales and we are targeting Uganda. But we will not be intimidated when playing the big boys,” says Muthuthantri. “We will approach every match positively, stick to our structure and try and play to our strengths and not worry about what the opposition do. We will focus on our game.”
Fiji will be the favourites to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal on Sunday. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold medalists will provide a stiff opening test for Muthuthantri and his boys but the dashing flanker was unfazed by the challenge.
“This will be ideal preparation looking ahead to the Asian Games in Jakarta and it will be a good opportunity for the players to cement their places. We are in a better place than four year ago at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and we are all looking forward to the prospect of taking on teams who play regularly on the World Rugby Sevens Series. It will be a good test for us,” Muthuthantri added.
Head coach Peter Woods agreed with his captain saying: “This is definitely a build-up to the Asian Games. We can train all day on the field and look really good but without opposition and contact you don’t know what players are like under pressure. With the Commonwealth Games, it is another step forward for our guys.
“Fiji and Wales will obviously be a huge challenge. They play on the World Series and will be way ahead. But I’m looking for a really good performance where our players go out there and perform. If you go out and play with confidence, on your day in sevens, anything can happen and we might be able to surprise them. As long as our guys front up and show skill, aggression and discipline I will be very happy,” Woods added.
Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea – all of whom are not part of the Commonwealth – will be Sri Lanka’s main hurdles at the Asian Games.