Sri Lanka v Hong Kong in Colombo (Asia5Nations)
Venue: Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club
The Sri Lankans face pressure as their Top 5 match this week against Hong Kong is potentially make or break for their hopes of remaining in the elite division of Asian rugby in 2012. Sri Lanka know a defeat at the hands of high-flying Hong Kong could result in their stint in the Top Five competition being short and not so sweet.
“A victory is crucial against Hong Kong. We are confident and we will give it our best shot,” said No 8 and captain Sean Wijesinghe who will be hoping his forwards can repeat the same gutsy performance they showed in the 13-13 draw against the United Arab Emirates a fortnight ago.
The failure to seal victory in that game has left last year’s Division One winners in a precarious position for they know a loss to Hong Kong could all but end their dreams of staying in the elite bracket. Sri Lanka travels to Almaty next week where they will face Kazakhstan, who despite losing to Hong Kong 23-10 this year, are a mighty force at home. The remaining game for the islanders will be against defending champions Japan on May 21 in Colombo.
“It is quite a formidable challenge but I’m confident we can secure our place in the Top Five next year,” says Sri Lanka’s Kiwi coach Ellis Meachen. “The boys know they are playing for 20 million of their countrymen. I have told them they are playing for all the villages and cities in Sri Lanka.”
With one of the smallest reservoir of players in the world, Hong Kong often punches above its weight and are intent on finishing second this year. The away win over Kazakhstan was a huge boost towards this end, and last week’s 45-22 loss to Japan was another morale booster.
But national coach Dai Rees is not taking anything for granted. “They will throw everything at us for this is an important game for them,” Rees said. “They are a skilful side and we won’t take them lightly.”
Hong Kong make a couple of changes to the front-row with hooker Brent Taylor returning from injury while specialist tighthead prop Nigel Hobler has been recalled.
“The Sri Lankan forwards are a useful unit and we have decided to strengthen our front row to counter that threat,” Rees said. “The rest of the starting lineup remains unchanged from that which began against Japan.”
However, there will be a new face on the bench, in the form of lock/back rower Kwok Ka-Chun who will be appearing for the first time this season.
Sri Lanka too has stuck to the same squad which held the UAE and will rely hugely on the back-row trio of Wijesinghe, Yoshitha Rajapakse and Danushka Perera to rattle Hong Kong.
“We have decided to give the same set of guys another go. They deserve it having played so well against the UAE,” said Michael Jayasekera, chairman of selectors.
Last Five Encounters
14.05.2006 Hong Kong 42-14 in Hong Kong (WCQ Asia R4, Div.2)
11.10.2003 Hong Kong 36-22 in Kandy (Asia Tournament)
05.11.1996 Hong Kong 66-13 in Tainan (15th Asia Championship)
20.10.1990 Hong Kong 21-13 in Colombo (12th Asia Championship)
12.11.1988 Hong Kong 45-3 in Hong Kong (11th Asia Championship)
GWC Rugby Rankings
Asia Table-Hong Kong 2nd, Sri Lanka 5th
IRB Ranking Points
Hong Kong 53.62, Sri Lanka 48.62
Prediction: Hong Kong by 11 points
1. Terence Henry, 2. Achala Perera 3. Eranga Swarnathilaka 4. Senaka Bandara 5. Sajith Saranga 6. Danushka Perera 7. Yositha Rajapaksa 8. Sean Wijesinghe, Capt. 9. Roshan Weerarathne 10. Fazil Marija 11. Charith Senaverathne 12. Gayan Weerarathne 13. Pradeep Liyanage 14. Nuwan Hettarachchi 15. Saliya Kumara 16. Nishal Heepage 17. Bilal Hassan 18. Dinesh Sanjeewa 19. Keith Gurusinghe 20. Prasad Chaturanga 21. Chanaka Chandimal 22. Lasitha Costa
Head Coach: Ellis Meachen
1. Alex NG Wai Shing 2. Brent Taylor 3. Nigel Hobler 4. Renaud Chavanis 5. Michael Waller 6. Nick Hewson 7. Mark Goosen 8. Pale Tauti 9. Peter McKee 10. Keith Robertson 11. Rowan Varty 12. Lee Jones 13. Tom McColl, Capt. 14. Salom Yiu Kam Shing 15. Ross Armour 16. Andrew Li 17. Alex Harris 18. Kwok Ka Chun 19. Terence Montgomery 20. Tim Alexander 21. Jamie Hood 22. Alex McQueen
Head Coach: Dai Rees