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The Red Brigade is back to fight for top slot

After many a season the CR v CH derby game will be eagerly anticipated by the domestic rugby fraternity. After some difficult seasons CH have acquired the services of some foreign players, and should enhance their performances when compared to other seasons.

CR too, have their own foreigner, but he is a coach rather than a player.

The Longdon Place lads have been reacquainted with their former coach, Australian Grant Dwyer, who is hoping to take his Club to heights not reached in recent times.

The perennial bridesmaid in recent times, CR will this year find their usually assured second spot in the league table threatened. But that threat will bring with it the very real opportunity for them to move up that coveted one spot in the table.

In the face of renewed challenges from the bottom four Clubs and the usual threats from Navy and Kandy, CR have been quietly raising the notches in training.

Blessed with some outstanding school boy talent from the last few seasons, CR have an interesting mix of personnel.

Dushanth Lewke leads them for the second consecutive time from the no.8 position. In his pack he has the services of deputy skipper Terrence Henry - the only CR player to start all the Sri Lanka games in the recent A5N - skilful hooker Anuja Perera and the evergreen Dunstan De Silva.

Dimitri, Mohamed Rizwan and Hasaranga will shore up the front row and attempt to emulate the devastating scrum anchored by Mohamed, Prasantha and Boteju on Grant's last stint. With ex - skipper Ashen Karthelis, Sharo Fernando, Chilanka Samaraweera and with ex Trinity, Sri Lanka player Duminda de Silva adding to the fold CR have genuine ball winners in the line out, while the giant Hasitha Perera adds muscle to the engine room.

The CR third row has been beset by injuries and absences but still boast the likes of national cap Ishan Noor and alongside young players like the combative Gayan Rathnage, Hasthika Bandaranayake and hard working Idris Omar.

In the half back positions CR is possessed of the gifted Srinath Sooriyabandara who will start for his Club in the absence of Zulker Hamid. Ashan De Costa and Niroshan Fernando will rotate at fly half with Nigel Ratwatte out for the remainder of the season.

National poolist Shabeer Mohamed takes over the no.12 jersey for the second year in a row and Sri Lanka player Lasintha De Costa will man the outside centre position, while all the time looking over his shoulder at the likes of Muhsin Faleel and the talented, underrated Nuwan Chamara.

CR's back three is imposing with Rizah Mubarak at full back and Vishwamithra Jayasinghe with scorching pace on the wings, partnered by either Chamara Dabare or Heshan Guneratne. Mohamed Sherriff also comes back home and can slot into the backline in any position to destroy opposition defences.

The Club has serious depth and talent. If their set pieces are as effective as when Grant last coached, and the defence is as watertight as it used to be - conceding only 3 tries in an entire season - then CR will no doubt be in the running for the Championship.

It will be hard work, but the red jerseys don't show blood. Jivan Gunatilake, the assistant coach, was uncompromising as a player, and together with old hand Manager Rohan Chinthaka, the CR will aim to fulfil its potential this year, in what is anticipated to be the most competitive league tournament in a decade.

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