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Sep 11, 2011 2:48:52 PM - www.ft.lk

After months of anticipation, the RWC finally kicked off on 9 Sep with the mighty All Blacks once gain showing their all round skills.  The opening ceremony was quite different to what one has seen in the recent past.
After a 24-year wait, the tournament returned to New Zealand and the hosts marked the occasion with an incredibly well choreographed show which featured Maori dancing, a stunning fireworks display and, much to the delight of the 60,000 fans in attendance, the legendary All Blacks winger Johah Lomu.

The All Blacks last won the world cup when they hosted the games in 1987. International Rugby Board (IRB) Chairman Bernard Lapasset gave his introductory speech, starting out in Maori before switching to English. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, then arrived on stage to officially launch the tournament. ‘’This great country and its wonderful people will be the most exceptional hosts of a tournament that New Zealanders and rugby fans alike will be proud of,’’ he said. ‘’It is my honour and privilege to declare the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand officially open’’. Whilst the dancing was thought provoking and the fireworks were stunning, the speech made by the two eminent gentlemen was short and crisp. I am sure that our local dignitaries can take a leaf out of this book and not hog the limelight at sporting events.
Scotland and England were given a scare and England is mighty glad to have scraped through. They need to up the ante if they are to make a serious claim for the Cup. Although Japan went down to France, they played well although the score line may suggest otherwise. Fiji known better for their sevens game gave a good account of themselves in beating Namibia
The quality of refereeing was refreshing and the games moved on smoothly with the referee’s instructions being loud and clear and most importantly consistent. The two assistant referees’ added value to the game as opposed to being mere flag waving linesman.
The semi-finals took place on Saturday and the weather gods were kind as we had good ground conditions for a fast game. Kandy and Navy have made it through and will face each other in the finals next week.  As I made my way to the Royal Complex, for the Navy game I finally found a parking slot about 1 km away. The traffic cops were helpful and looked very cheerful as well, with loads of the spanking new dark blue police jeeps parked on the sidewalk. The security to get into the stadium was tight and I was given the usual pat down and with a yellow PSD sticker on my T-shirt I was free to enter.
The game was played at a rather hectic pace. Both sides had many opportunities to score but fluffed the ball at vital points. At timed Havies kicked the ball aimlessly and gave away hard won possession to the opposition.
I wish some of them watch the current international games and learn from them some valuable tips on the need for ball retention. The game was tight till the final minutes when Navy smothered a kick by the Havies and scored thereby putting the game beyond all doubt. In way it was a fitting end, as I see it; only Navy can challenge the might of Kandy, and next week’s final will no doubt be a humdinger.
The local games will have more following if the quality of rugby and the quality of refereeing improves. Yesterday’s performance by those officiating was pathetic to say the least. In fact one wondered if we were at the game to watch a comedy of errors by the referee or if we were there to witness a semi-final game.
As I spoke to a former national player, he was simply stunned and at a loss of words to describe the pathetic performance. As I said earlier, we need to throw in the mega bucks and ensure that we get our officials trained – this includes the referees, coaching staff and the administrators as well.  If not, the game will die a natural death. The possibility of securing the services of a competent referee and two assistant referees even if it has to be from overseas to handle the final will be money well spent.
The fact, that Rugby and a lot of other sports bodies are being managed by interim committees, could be the issue and that needs to be addressed if we are to make a mark in world sports.

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