BY Shamseer Jaleel reporting from Hong Kong
Former Peterite, Sri Lanka double International and current Havies second rower, Shenal Dias made a comeback to the National Sevens Rugby Squad due to Shehan Pathirane’s failure to recover from his injury which he sustained at the Colombo leg of the Asian Sevens series three weeks ago.
Also missing from the squad is Dulaj Perera who is nursing an injury; his place was taken over by his teammate at Havies, Hirantha Perera. Only surprise omission is of Viswamithra Jayasinghe who performed well in Singapore but was dropped from the touring squad to Hong Kong.
Sudharshan Muthuthathri will lead Sri Lanka at the Asian qualifiers for the Rio Olympics 2016 which will take place at the Hong Kong Stadium on 7 and 8 November.
Seven players who toured Singapore for the Singapore Cricket Club Rugby Sevens left Singapore to Hong Kong two days ago. They were Muthuthanthri, Shenal Dias, Srinarth Sooriyabandara, Richard Dharmapala, Sandun Herath, Kanchana Ramanayake and Hirantha Perera. Fazil Marija, Gayan Weeraratne, Nigel Ratwatte, Anurudha Wilwara and Dhanushka Ranjan left Colombo to Hong Kong two days back. Former England sevens specialist Matt Turner will be the Head Coach of the Sri Lankan outfit.
The Sri Lanka women’s outfit left the island early morning today and will face some tough opposition. They will be under the watchful eyes of former Sri Lanka winger Chandrishan Perera. Thanuja Dilrukshi (Capt), Sandika Hemakumari, Randika Kumudumali, Anusha Attanayake, Nadeeka Munasinghe, Dulani Palikongange, Dasuni De Silva, Aysha Lakmali, Sandeepa Sandamali, Thilini Rangani, Sanjeewani Wasana and Sanjeewani De Silva are the other players who took wing to Causeway Bay in Hong Kong
The 2016 Games will mark the debut of Rugby Sevens as an Olympic competition. Men’s champions will advance automatically to Rio while the women’s teams will compete in a two-tournament series in Hong Kong and Japan later this month. Asia will also have spots for the other high-placing men’s and women’s teams from the Qualifier in a final international repechage tournament in June 2016 before the Rio Olympic Sevens which is scheduled in August 2016.
Hong Kong have drawn a beneficial group, topping Pool B ahead of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines and Iran who are making their 2015 debut in a senior Asia Rugby event this week-end. With a blend of size and speed, fourth-ranked Sri Lanka will have a tough group outing against Hong Kong. The loser in this group will have a date with Japan in the semi-final which both Hong Kong and Sri Lanka prefer to avoid.
The Hong Kong outfit contains 11 of their 12 players who won the Silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea and will be tough to be beaten in front of their home support. Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka are favoured to move forward towards semi-final stage in this tournament which will attract a large crowd in Causeway Bay.
Japan are the current Asian champions after sweeping all three events on this year’s Sevens series. Japan is tipped to take top spot in their group with South Korea to earn second place. Japan’s women also finished top of the table in the women’s series, with China in second and Hong Kong finishing tied second but overall third based on differentials.