Sri Lanka: Cricket or Rugby nation? "Wait! Sri Lanka has rugby…..???

Sri Lanka Photo of Local Girl.


Sri Lanka well known as a dominant force in international cricket. They were 1996 cricket world cup winners ….. but  does anyone know Sri Lanka play rugby??……

Sri Lanka Rugby Club Sports Physio.

Players look our from view from Rugby Stadium prior to game in Sri Lanka Hill Country.

The photograph above, is taken from our change rooms of a stadium in Sri Lanka, as this sports physiotherapist was working just prior to a rugby game. These boys are overlooking part of field in a full stadium, which can ‘reportedly’ fit over 20,000 spectators.  So some interesting facts, average attendance in stadiums in Super Rugby is 21,807. In Australia’s Rugby League (NRL) is 17,346. In European Rugby the Aviva Championship average attendance is 12,925; and New Zealand’s top rugby competition (AirNZ Cup) is only 7,203.
Sri-Lanka-Rugby-Traveling-Physio

Sports Physiotherapist in Sri Lanka overlooks Rugby Game.

Oh and to top this all off…this photo was taken by this physiotherapist at a rugby stadium that is in the hill tea country area of Sri Lanka. Not even in one of Sri Lanka’s major cities…. yes!! Sri Lanka is a Rugby Nation!! Domestically at least……
Sri Lanka Cricket Fan - Sports Physio.

Strong cricket supporters & crazy fun fans at cricket games.

In Sri Lanka the large interest could mainly be because the Presidents sons all played on the national team. One of the national captain “Yoshitha Rajapaksa” and the eldest Namal Rajapaksa is heavily involved in national team. He is a MP himself, successful business men and has been described by various sources like “The Economist‘ as one of Sri Lanka’s most successful and influential man. However the national team struggles internationally; although Sri Lanka does compete in the Asian 5 nations, beyond this they have had no success to qualify for Rugby World Cup. This is mainly due to poor strength (a lot due to outdated training approaches), and smaller body sizes, which has shown in a few bad games recently including losing to the Philippines. So internationally it is definitely not a Rugby nation. However saying this, things could change due to the increased popularity and introduction of Rugby 7′s into Olympics. A game more suited to the smaller Asian builds and less dominated by the larger rugby powerhouse nations. There could be future potential for the Rugby in Sri Lanka to improve internationally in 7s.
Rugby-Injuries-Rehabilitation

Rugby Scrum.

Ok first half of this blog i might be biased, because this is a self-centered blog about my sports physiotherapy experiences. So that gives me the rights to do so!. And really i don’t knows how many people were in that stadium. However clearly in my time working in Sri Lanka i worked much more giving sports physiotherapy to Rugby. I did also see many cricket players; but their first team have their own full-time team physiotherapist. Another Australian sports physiotherapist over here and great guy who helped me settle-in, my mate Steve Mount. So i generally only would see the club cricketers, youth/reserves. And rarely national team players only when they won’t selected for a tour and their team (& of course their physiotherapist) is away. Aka the ones left behind would come into physiotherapy or sports medical clinic to see me; for some quality Australian physiotherapy standards. However besides this my physiotherapy workload for Rugby was more. This mainly cos the Sri Lanka presidents sons are on Sri Lanka’s national Rugby team, so ‘no choice’ but to make sure their sports injuries are treated. Otherwise this physiotherapist would have to quickly jump on a flight out of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Cricket Physiotherapist & Cricket Injury Rehab.

Sri Lanka Rugby Nation (Domestically) – Physiotherapists Opinion

On my arrival to Sri Lanka within my first week i would become aware of this Rugby nation. In the distant i hear a familiar kiwi accent, as they walk into the clinic. Yes a foreign player playing in Sri Lanka. The Carlton 7′s Rugby Tournament was about to begin. This is the worlds first of its kind, franchise based rugby tournament similar to India’s Cricket IPL format. Teams in Sri Lanka would bid for key international players. Over 40 international players came to the tournament, including most of NZ’s 7′s players, and also players from Australia, England and Fiji players. Then almost straight after this the Sri Lankan rugby 15′s league would begin and most teams also having foreign players. Some big international rugby players such as D.J. Forbes (NZ 7′s Captain) played in Sri Lanka during this time. So like all of you, i was also shocked Sri Lanka doesn’t just lay on beautiful beaches, dance with Buddha, drink tea and play cricket.

Sri Lanka NZ Rugby Traveling Physiotherapist.

Kiwi / NZ Rugby Player overlooks kick in Sri Lanka.

Inadequate management of previous sports injuries, incorrect diagnosis’s, poor strength conditioning approaches, people with limited knowledge or often even no qualifications acting as sports physiotherapists with the top teams. These all co-founding a very large sports injury rate within rugby in Sri Lanka. A major hurdle if they want to improve their IRB international rugby rankings. I remember struggling out of bed one morning to head up to hill country in middle of the island nation. Why? because one of the rugby teams accommodation is up there, to check out some of the national team players (who played for that club). Besides this physiotherapist waking up 5am, which i complain about all the time (TAKE NOTE employers; I AM NOT a morning person!) and sweating enormously like most of my days in the humidity of Sri Lanka. This day would turn into a shock of a day…..boys literally lining up in the room, lining up to talk to me…previous ACL’s from years ago that never had proper “rehabilitation”. Or the opposite where athletes were just told that they can’t play for the rest of season, because they had ACL injuries. When they clearly did not have such a injury. Then finally getting back my apartment that day, near midnight but at least getting some of the rugby boys onto “proper” rehabilitation and physiotherapy programs.

Rugby Sports Physio on Sideline at Rugby Game in Sri Lanka.

Sports Physio looks on from sideline in Sri Lanka Rugby Game.

Sri Lanka Cricket Nation (International)- Physiotherapists Opinion

Ok well we can say Internationally, Sri Lanka most popular and successful game is Cricket. The national cricket stadium can fit 35,000, and it does fill when the Sri Lanka National Team plays games there. Cricket is more popular then it is back in Australia. In terms of rugby; the earlier photo is just one game where the crowds came. This physiotherapist has seen the opposite of small crowds at some other games. But good crowds are regular in school and domestic rugby well beyond the crowds seen in domestic cricket in Sri Lanka. But in terms of international success we would say it is clearly a cricket nation. The team has dominated with international success such as winning the World Cup in 1996, and being runner-ups in the last World Cup. They are also hosting their first SLPL (Sri Lanka Premier League). A tournament similar to the successful Cricket IPL in India. They are also part of the cricket dominated subcontinent. Oh and to my Europeans and Americans friends, i am not explaining what cricket is. “Come on” it is not really that difficult despite your persistent argument it is!

Premadasa - Sri Lanka National Cricket Stadium Physiotherapist.

Premadasa – Sri Lanka National Cricket Stadium.

Well to complete my initial question; Sri Lanka is not a cricket or a rugby nation as this sports physiotherapist would think. According to the government officially “It’s a Volleyball Nation”. Yes volleyball is the national sport…….

Beach Volleyball Chinese Girls Dancing.

Volleyball at London Olympics - Sri Lanka Sports Physiotherapist.

…….hmmm wonder why the ‘male’ Sri Lankan government decided that?!!

-Shane Hayes, Sports Physiotherapist with Team Sri Lanka & Foreigner in Sri Lanka, and World Traveler.