Sri Lanka Rugby national XV’s team left the island last night to compete in the Asia Rugby Championship(ARC). Malaysia once again hosts this division one tournament after becoming champions last year in the same segment.
Skipper Roshan Weerarathne looked confident with his team mixed with youth and experience. However, his Kandy team mate Lavanga Perera will be replaced by Sashan Mohamed the CR&FC winger.
Ahead of the crucial Asia Rugby Division I Championship, Sri Lanka will make a quick change..
Sri Lanka ranked 41 in the world will kick-off the tournament against Philippines (57) on Sunday, followed by the new comers to the division one the UAE (72) after winning the division 2 last year on Wednesday. The final match is expected to be a decider against the hosts Malaysia (54) on Saturday.
UAE looks solid with so many expats playing in their team but surprising omission in that team is the Sri Lankan born Imad Reyal who has not been included in the squad. He was the most outstanding player for the UAE at last years’ ARC.
Lankan born Imad Reyal stole the spotlight last week in the Asia Rugby Championship Div II..
The majority of Philippines players are contracted to play in Japan as the Philippines passport is considered as “Overseas Asian players” under a new quota system. Moreover, they have included some experienced players in the likes of Ollie Saunders who is well-known in the Philippines as Fazil Marija is in Sri Lanka. Patrice Olivier is another star player who plays professionally for Tokyo Gas in Japan.
Malaysia on the other hand consists of seven Fijians and a Samoan in their team and the team has been training in Perth, Australia as a preparation for this tournament. They clearly aim at the next world cup in 2019 in Japan.
It is still possible for any of these teams to make history as the winner of this tournament will play against Hong Kong and Korea next year in a home and away clash. Upon winning that top three battle next year, they will be promoted to play the repecharge tournament. Finishing the repercharge on top, means that the second Asian country will enter in to the pool C alongside the champions All Blacks, Springboks and Italy.
It is gigantic task for any of the Asian teams as Hong Kong and South Korea are still unable to beat Japan in the top three.
Sri Lanka Rugby will compete in the Asia Rugby Championship, division one which will be held..
However, Sri Lanka will see their main task as surviving this division. With the lack of preparation and the lack of overseas experience in comparison to the other three countries, the Tuskers would have done well to come on top of this tournament.
There will be nine debutants including Sashan Mohamed, the last minute call and this will be last XV’s tournament for the former captain and the veteran Fazil Marija.
Last year Sri Lanka beat Singapore 33 – 17 and Philippines 25 – 21 but lost to Malaysia 42 – 17.
This will be a new mission for coach Fereti Verebula who is a former Papua New Guinea and the current coach of Army Sports Club.