It will be decision time for the Junior Tuskers as they take flight to Hong Kong with intentions of retaining the Asia Rugby Under 20 Sevens title, as the series will kick off on the 4th of August at the Kings Park Stadium.
A completely revamped outfit will shoulder the country’s aspirations when they take the field this Friday aiming to repeat what Kevin Dixon and his team did last year.
Read more about 2016: Junior Tuskers rewrite history with Under 20 Sevens win
The Dixon led Sri Lankan U20 players made history becoming the first Sri Lankan team to have ever won an Asia Sevens series title across all formats. The Junior Tuskers won the first leg played in Malaysia comprehensively and later were runners-up in the Hong Kong leg, bringing home Sri Lanka’s first sevens silverware in the Asian circuit.
Read about Sri Lanka’s 1st Asia Rugby title: Sri Lanka Crowned Asian Champs despite going down to HK
Naveen Henakankanamage, who has been handed over the reigns of captaincy, is expected to repeat what Kevin Dixon achieved last year but this time his team gets one opportunity.
In contrast to last year, the Under 20 Sevens series is set to have one leg and the winner of this year’s series will gain qualification to the Junior World Rugby Championship to be held in Uruguay this September.
New Challenge for Henakankanamage
The choice for captaincy didn’t go beyond Henakankanamage. His record as a national skipper in the Under 18’s has got the Junior Tuskers a Plate finish in Hong Kong and a series win in Chinese Taipei.
As a player, he has outdone himself with a track record in the Super 7’s as well as the recently concluded Mercantile Sevens but this will be a new challenge for the young speedster.
Experience will be key
The key to Kevin Dixon’s victory was that his 2016 team had the likes experienced players who’ve had at least a season of professional club rugby. This year’s team does not boast too much of the same but there is hope for the side.
A member of last year’s triumphant team, Supun Dilshan will be required to carry the weight of the team being the most experienced player. This will be Supun’s fourth tour in the Lankan colours having earlier toured twice for the Asia U20 Sevens and later for the fifteens.
The Navy player who plays at center will need to be in the center of all of Sri Lanka’s gameplay.
Only Dinuk Amerasinghe & Chamod Fernando remain from the under 18 team that toured under Henakankanamage’s leadership. Both of them performed exceptionally as players in their college colours and should surely aid the Lankan cause of title retention.
Lahiru Herath & Suranga Bandara get maiden calls
The selectors have gone all out in getting the best possible players for the Under 20’s by including both Lahiru Herath & Suranga Bandara.
The 20-year-old Navy center Lahiru Herath has been a standout player for the sailors over the season and surely is a value additive to the Under 20 side.
From making his entry to professional rugby with the Softlogic Warriors at the Super 7’s, Cambrian Suranga Bandara has been able to catch the eye of the selectors and with his speed and stepping abilities will surely be something to watch out for.
Good luck charmed Sudath Sampath
It took coach Sudath Sampath to achieve what Sudath Sampath the player failed to accomplish and the charm has worked for the Junior Tuskers under his watch.
With an Asian Under 20 series win under his belt, there seems no other person suitable other than him to lead this year’s contingent for victory. The Police coach will look to make it 2/2 when they arrive in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 decider.
As Sri Lanka’s chances at a title victory look very positive, the only threat they should be worried about will be hosts Hong Kong. They have been the only nation that Kevin Dixon clan couldn’t conquer and Naveen & co will be entrusted in achieving what they couldn’t.
With ample talent in the team, defending champions Sri Lanka will march on to Kings Park Stadium Hong Kong with monumental confidence in retaining the coveted silverware.
Naveen Henakankanamage (C), Supun Dilshan (VC), Chamod Fernando, Ranidu Padmasanka, Dinuk Amerasinghe, Adheesha Weerathunga, Suranga Bandara, Lahiru Herath, Theekshana Dassanayake, Wajid Fawmy, Sandesh Jayawickrema & Avishka Lee
Non-touring stand-by: Chathura Seneviratne, Ramesh Fernando & Thanuja Maduranga
Catch the Junior Tuskers in action as ThePapare will be bringing you live action from Kings Park Stadium in Hong Kong on Dialog Tv Channel 1, MyTv & on ThePapare.com