By Sahmzeer Jaleel
A gutsy Sri Lankan Rugby outfit (XV) a side rugby under the youngest national skipper, Omalka Gunaratne (23) will depart to Taipei tomorrow in order to gain qualification for Top 3 in the Asian region for 2020. Sri Lanka last won the Division 1 in 2015.
Sri Lankan outfit underwent a tour to Malaysia 2 weeks prior looks solid and well balanced with young blood dominating the squad of 26. In fact 17 of them are making their debut tour for the country which is another record. After several national players nursing with injuries who opted out of this tour due to continues rugby. Roshan Weeraratne who opted out for the Malaysian tour too will be touring with the squad will be a major bonus for Head Coach, Matt Lee.
Omalka after representing the "Green Shirts" leading from Under 12 to Under 20 was the deputy skipper of the Sri Lanka Under 20 outfit at the Asian Sevens which won the Cup in Hong Kong. Omalka started off his club career with Navy and later on move to Longdon Place Club where he led the outfit this year with the regular skipper, Kavindu Perera being side lined due to an injury.
Sri Lanka will lock horns with Philippines on May 29 and play their last game 3 days later. Hosts Taipei will lock horns with Singapore on the opening day. Sri Lanka was fortunate not to be demoted after opting to stay out of the XV's in 2018. They held talks with Asian Rugby and successfully appealed to stay in division 1. Two wins in the 4 team's event will book a berth for Sri Lanka to feature in the Top3 in Asia for 2020 among South Korea and Hong Kong who are likely to retain their position in top 3.
Speaking to Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) Omalka said "I am very happy with the preparation for this tour. We had a camp at the Sugathadasa Stadium thanks to the Sports Minister, Harin Fernando supporting this. Boys have bonded better and we want to return with the trophy.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka Head Coach, Matt Lee said "Our preparation for this tour was good as we toured Malaysia and identified a few areas and worked hard to get over it. Philippines got a good side with some Australians are playing there. We have a young side If we play according to plan success should come our way.
Sri Lanka Rugby Deputy President, Rizly IIyas said "I would like to thank Minister of Sports and former Joes Rugby Player, Harin Fernando in assisting in the team's training and travelarrangement for the team. Dialog for being with us for such a long time and propping with Sri Lanka Rugby which is major strength for us. We have a record 17 players making their debut for the country out of the 26 touring party. This is a major honor for them to play for their country and win their national jersey. SLR under Lasitha Gunaratne worked as a team and Minister, Harin Fernando too mentioned that the country ha done well in local and overseas tours".
Omalka Gunaratne (capt), Jason Melder (vice capt), Kavindu Perera (vice capt), Roshan Weeraratne, Sajith Saranga, Prasad Madushanka, Thilina Wijesinghe, Umesh Madushanka, Nivanka Prasad, Mithun Hapugoda, Theekshana Dissanayake, Sachith Silva, Buddima Piyaratne, Lasindu Ishan, Gihan Perera, Uchitha Jayasooriya, Charles Praveen, Thilina Bandara, Prabath Kumara, Samuel Maduwantha, Reza Rafaideen, Dinuk Amaradinghe, Sudaraka Dikkumbura, Kasun de Silva, Yakoob Ali and Ashan Bandara
Head Coach Matt Lee (New Zealand)
Assistant Coaching staff- Viraj Prasanna and Fazil Marija
Trainer Dilan Soysa
Chief de Mission Rear Amiral Hettiarachchi
Physiotherapist Hasitha Vithanage
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