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Lankans play India, HK in Group C

The Sri Lanka Sevens team led by Pradeep Liyanage took wing to Hong Kong last night with the aim of qualifying for the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens from the Asian region.

Besides Sri Lanka among other top-ranked teams in the fray will be Asian powerhouse Japan, their arch-rivals Korea, host nation Hong Kong, China, Kazakhstan, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Guam and India.

According to guidelines set out by the sport’s world controlling body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), the two top teams at the end of the RWC Asian qualifiers will qualify automatically for the RWC Sevens in 2009.

According to the latest rankings issued by the IRB for International Sevens rugby nations, Sri Lanka is occupying the sixth slot behind Malaysia.

The 2006 Rugby World Cup Sevens champs Japan and runner-up Korea have been ranked as number one and two respectively, with hosts Hong Kong at number three.

Asian Games Bronze medallist China has been ranked fourth while Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Singapore, India and Guam make up the rankings from seven to 12.

The IRB has ranked these nations according to the performances of each of these countries at the 2006 Asian Games Rugby Sevens, and taking into consideration the way they have performed at other international and regional Sevens.

The world renowned Hong Kong Sevens and the concluded Singer Sri Lankan Sevens in Kandy have also come into the reckoning when the IRB take into account the exact placing of teams ahead of the RWC Asian Qualifiers. Sri Lanka have been grouped in ‘C’ for the event in HK, along with India and the host nation.

A notable feature in the Sri Lanka team is that there will be five players from Isipatana MV donning the national jersey at this tournament. They are namely Ashan de Costa, Lasintha de Costa, Chula Susantha, Sajith Saranga and Dinusha Chathuranga. Of them both Saranga and Chathuranga are still schoolboys at the Havelock Town school.

The groupings for the RWC Asian Qualifiers -

Group ‘A’ - Japan, Kazakhstan, Thailand.

Group ‘B’ - Korea, Chinese Taipei, Singapore.

Group ‘C’ - Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, India.

Group ‘D’ - China, Malaysia, Guam.

Meanwhile, for the first time in the history of the Rugby World Cup Asian Qualifiers there will be a women’s tournament as well organised by the IRB at Hong Kong.

Running simultaneously with the men’s event, the women’s tournament too is bound to provide excitement as Sri Lanka will be led by their women’s captain H. A. P. Lankara.

In this tournament, Sri Lanka has been grouped in ‘B’ alongside China and Arabian Gulf while in Group ‘A’ Kazakhstan, Hong Kong and Singapore, will go head to head.

Japan, Thailand and Chinese Taipei will compete in Group ‘C’.

The three top teams at this event will eventually qualify for the 2009 Women’s RWC Sevens tourney.

The Sri Lanka men’s and women’s teams are as follows:

Men’s team: Pradeep Liyanage (capt), Wasim Thajudeen, Ashen Karthelis, Dilanka Wijesekera, Sajith Saranga, Poornaka Delpachitra, Amjad Buksh, Ashan de Costa, Lasintha de Costa, Mohammed Sheriff, Chula Susantha, Dinusha Chathuranga, Saliya Kumara. Manager: Roshan Deen. Coaches: Nishantha Chanaka, Dawie Snyman. Physio: Norman Laker.

Women’s team: H. A. P. Lankara (capt), N. M. Nilusha, W. M. Thanuja Dilrukshi, B. Ishani de Silva, M. C. Mayuri, M. M. Ayesha Seuwandi, R. Kumari, R. K. A. Sandeepa Sandamalee, W. D. Wickremarathne, N. M. Fernando, W. L. Rukshani Ariyasena, R. A. Dilhani. Manager: Lt. Col. G. G. D. Gunasekera. Coach: Hisham Abdeen.

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