Sri Lanka to kick-off 2022 medal bid in Korea
By Allaam Ousman - www.dailynews.lk
Sri Lanka launch their ambitious bid to win a medal at the 2022 Asian Games when they kick-off the first leg of the Asian Rugby Sevens Series in Incheon, South Korea on August 31 against China under a new captain Danush Dayan.
Unlike Omalka Gunaratne who was thrust into the leadership role for the Asia Rugby Championship in Chinese Taipei on his international debut, Dayan has been vice captain of the Sri Lanka team last year having blossomed into a fiery forward in the past two years. It's a dream come true for the 26-year-old Kandy product who will have the unique distinction of wearing the captain’s armband despite not having led his school St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota or Kandy SC which he has represented for the past eight years as a utility forward.
“I am very honoured and grateful for this opportunity. This is my target in my rugby career. I must first thank my parents and coaches for this achievement,” said Dayan humbly.
Sri Lanka has been drawn with Japan, China and UAE in group A while Hong Kong, Philippines, South Korea and Chinese Taipei are in group B.
“We will target China in the first match. We are also prepared to face Japan and are not going to underestimate UAE who may field Fijians,” said the Sri Lanka skipper with quiet self confidence on the eve of the team’s departure to South Korea.
“We don’t have a lot of experience but we have lot of young talent. This is a good opportunity for them to showcase their skills for the country and wear the jersey with pride. I hope they will do their best,” said Dayan who has featured in the Asian Rugby Sevens Series for the past four years.
The national rugby selectors headed by Rohan Abayakoon consistent with their policy of picking new blood, have included four debutants in the 12-member squad. They are Janidu Dilshan, 20, the youngest member of the side, Thilina Wijesinghe, Sudaraka Dikkumbura and Sachith Silva, who unfortunately missed out because of injury. He has been replaced by Naveen Hewakankanamge, who led the Sri Lanka under 18 and 20 teams in the Asian Rugby Sevens Series in 2016 and 2018.
Former Royal star Dilshan along with Dinouk Amarasinghe were also members of the team that emerged under 18 champions in Chinese Taipei. “It is a big achievement to play for Sri Lanka but playing internationals at junior and senior levels are different,” said Dilshan who turns out for CR and FC.
New Zealander Mathew Lee targets a top three position for Sri Lanka in the three-leg Asian Rugby Sevens Series which will return to Huizhou, Guangdong, China on September 14 and 15 and Colombo’s Racecourse for the Sri Lanka event on September 28 and 29.
“We are looking forward to the challenge. With a few players unavailable, there is a good mix of young and old. Our focus is game by game. The group’s been working well from the first week of training. It’s good that we are starting to build a good group. Our target is place in top three at the tournament,” said Sri Lanka’s head coach Lee.
Sri Lanka Rugby’s Sevens consultant Nalaka Weerakkody said Sports Minister Harin Fernando is keep to raise the profile and standard of rugby just like cricket.
“My task is to recommend how we could improve the standard of rugby to match international standards. He has pledged to support the sport of rugby and wants Sri Lanka to be on a high pedestal in the world arena. I will see how we can achieve these objectives,” said Weerakkody, a former Kandy SC and Sri Lanka three quarter, who will be accompanying the team along with Alex Nishantha as tour selector.
SRI LANKA MEN’S TOUR SQUAD: Danush Dayan (captain), Srinath Sooriyabandara, Kevin Dixon, Thilina Wijesinghe, Naveen Henkankanamge, Reeza Raffaideen, Dinouk Amarasinghe, Jason Dissanayake, Janidu Dilshan, Nishon Perera, Sudaraka Dikkumbura. Manager: Rohan Chinthaka, Head coach: Mathew Lee, Trainer: Dilan Soysa, Physio: Hasitha Tharaka, Consultant: Nalaka Weerakkody
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