In a bid to secure the Asian Rugby Championship, Sri Lanka national rugby squad, consisted of 25 players, will depart to Malaysia this morning.
The tuskers will be led by the number eight Sudharshana Muthuthanthri while veteran scrum half Roshan Weeraratne will serve as his deputy.
In the absence of number of senior players, Sri Lanka National selectors have picked nine uncapped players who had excelled in the recently concluded inter-club league rugby tournament.
Among the youngsters who are set to make their international debut are the former Isipathana captain Omalka Gunaratne, St. Peter’s captain Kevin Dixon, Wesley captain Rahul de Silva, Kavindu Perera, Niwanka Prasad, Janik Jayasooriya, Prasath Madushanka, Kavindu Perera and Bhanuka Nanayakkara.
Madushanka, playing as a hooker, ended up being the highest tries scorer in the league setting a new record while Gunaratne and Prasad were regular starters for the Navy Sports Club. Dixon on the other hand was given opportunities by Havelock at full back in the absence of their first choice full back Dulaj Perera.
Rahul de Silva who led Wesley for their famous Knockout Championship a couple of years ago moved to Havelock Park after growing unhappy at lack of playing time at Longdon Place, and the scrum half made his shift count by putting in some great performances right throughout the season.
Sri Lanka, though they have won this tournament last year, will be tested by the likes of Malaysia and Philippines, especially due to the fact that the tuskers are missing some key players in the form of Fazil Marija, Nigel Ratwatte, Dimitri Wijetunga, Anurudda Wilawara, Richard Dharmapala, Srinath Sooriyabandara, Gayan Weeraratne and Shehan Pathirana.
Former captain Marija who suffered an injury during the inter club season is due to undergo a surgery next month, but has still been named as an assistant coach in the squad mainly because of his experiences.
Sri Lanka will play their first match this Sunday against Singapore which they are expected to win with ease. However, the championship will be decided on their matches against Malaysia and Philippines on May 11 and 14.
Kandy coach Johan Taylor has been appointed as Sri Lanka national head coach and he will be assisted by Marija and Rajeev Perera while Rohan Chinthaka has been named as manager of the team.
Muthuthanthri had earlier captained Sri Lanka Sevens side last year. However this is his first assignment as the country’s fifteen-a-side captain. The Havelock number eight, however, is confident that his side can defend their title.
Sudarshana Muthuthanthri (Captain), Roshan Weeraratne (Vice Captain), Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Prasath Madushanka, Ganuka Dissanayake, Jason Melder, Sharo Fernando, Jason Dissanayake, Buwanaka Udangamuwa, Chanaka Chandimal, Kavindu Perera, Kanchana Ramanayake, Danushaka Ranjan, Sandun Herath, Riza Mubarak, Achala Perera, Kishore Jehan, Soyuru Anthony, Nuwanka Prasad, Kevin Dixon, Bhanuka Nanayakkara, Omalka Gunaratne, Danush Dayan, Rahul de Silva and Janik Jayasuriya.