By Shamseer Jaleel
The Sri Lanka Under-20 rugby outfit under Naveen Heenakankanmge left to Hong Kong yesterday in order to defend the Youth Asian Sevens title which they won last year under Kevin Dixon at the two-leg event.
This year’s event will be played only in Hong Kong on 4 and 5 August at the Kings Park rugby grounds in Kowloon. In 2016 Sri Lanka won the Malaysian leg and finished second to Hong Kong but won the series on aggregate.
Speaking to Daily FT before the team departed, Sri Lanka Head Coach Sudath Sampath said: “I am very thankful to the Sri Lanka Rugby administration for the support offered to me in the preparation for this tour. The side is balanced with some of them playing ‘A’ Division rugby, the Mercantile Sevens and the Sri Lanka Super Sevens which is very good exposure for them. We have another set of players which did really well at the school level. Naveen played a key role in the Sevens win of his school not once but twice. Under his leadership Sri Lanka won the Asian Under-18 title last year plus he showed his pace and defence at the Mercantile (playing for Access) and Sri Lanka Sevens (playing for the Etisalat Panthers). He is a very good leader and has the potential to make the national Sevens team. Dilshan, who played a huge role last year in the Under-20 series in Malaysia and Hong Kong, will be his deputy.
Sampath added that there were some players who had played club rugby last season. “Lahiru, Wajeed and Sandesh all played a leading role in club rugby for Navy and Police last season. We had good preparation for this tournament and should take things game-by-game. We have the potential to defend the title once more. If we end round one on top we can avoid Hong Kong and play South Korea in the semifinals.”
Pool A - Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Taipei, China and the Philippines
Pool B - South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Uzbekistan
India, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Thailand
Sri Lanka vs. the Philippines (8.40 a.m. SL time)
Sri Lanka vs. China (1.36 p.m. SL time)
Sri Lanka vs. Malaysia (4.10 p.m. SL time)
Sri Lanka vs. Taipei (8.58 a.m. SL time)