By Harsha Amarasinghe
Reigning champions Kandy Sports Club face a tricky trip to Ratmalana as their season gets underway against Air Force in a Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament match today (10) at Air Force grounds.
Led by Sri Lanka Sevens sensation Richard Dharmapala, Kandy have been dealt an early injury blow with former captain Gayan Weeraratne being ruled out with a hamstring injury, which has forced Sean Wijesinghe to move Dharmapala into centre position.
This has also provided a great opportunity to Lavanga Perera to take his place in wing along with Vishwamithra Jayasinghe, as first-choice Anurudda Wilwara is still recovering from a knee injury.
Prop forward Lasitha Attanagoda is set to start the game ahead of Ganuka Dissanayake with the rest of the front row consisting of hooker Uchitha Jayasooriya and prop Ashan Darling.
Head Coach Sean Wijesinghe has kept faith on the rest of the pack with Suhiru Anthony, Shehan Pathirana, Tharindu Chathuranga, Jason Dissanayake and Buwaneka Udangamuwa all securing their spots, while scrum-half Heshan Jansen is a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up.
The Airmen on the other hand would be eager to pull off what could be a massive upset on this venue in particular, having stunned the defending champions a couple of years ago.
Full-back Rumesh Ramdas who had significant impact in that game with two tries, has been named in the Air Force starting line-up along with fly-half Gayantha Iddamalgoda.
The hosts will also hand the club debut to Fiji star Raduwa Saumaki Kausoo who would join the two flankers, Rumesh Wasantha and Abhishek Fernando in the third row.
Air Force XV: Ranuka Medegedara, Lahiru Udayanga (c), Charles Praveen, Thilina Bandara, Prasanna Madushan, Rumesh Wasantha, Abhishek Fernando, Raduwa Saumaki Kausoo, Nuwan Perera and Gayantha Iddamalgoda, Ranidu Padmasanka, Krishan Jayasuriya, Jehan Seelagama, Kaushal Manupriya, Rumesh Ramdas
Kandy XV: Ashan Darling, Uchitha Jayasooriya, Lasitha Attanagoda, Suhiru Anthony, Shehan Pathirana, Tharindu Chathuranga, Jason Dissanayake, Buwaneka Udangamuwa, Heshan Jansen and Nigel Ratwatte, Vishvamithra Jayasinghe, Richard Dharmapala (c), Dhanushka Ranjan, Lavanga Perera, Thilina Wijesinghe