By Harsha Amarasinghe
Wing three quarter Sandun Herath has returned from a yearlong knee injury to be included in the Havelock Sports Club’s starting line-up for their Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament match against Air Force Sports Club at Havelock Park this evening (6.30pm).
The former Havelock captain was a regular member of the national side, but a serious knee injury that he suffered in 2016 saw the 25-year-old being sidelined ever since. A product of St. Peter’s College, Herath will replace Chamara Dabare in the left wing.
Meanwhile, the Park Club who started off the season with a 36-0 win over Police last week will be without their captain Jason Melder for this fixture as the former St. Joseph’s skipper is ruled out with an injury, and will be replaced by Shanaka Bandara.
Fly-half Niroshan Fernando, who missed the league opener last week against Police, has passed fit for the Air Force game which means Dulaj Perera will drop to the bench, probably for the first time in his Havelock career with Riza Mubarak being preferred at full-back.
Hirantha Perera is expected to be restored in the Havelock first XV in place of young Dinuk Amarasinghe to join their top scorer of last season Nishon Perera at centre.
Air Force are set to field the same starting line-up from last week which includes the two new signings Charles Praveen and Radeesha Senevirathne.
Former Isipathana speedster Ranidu Padmasanka has made himself a regular starter for the Airmen in what looks to be a very decent backline with the likes of Chathura Senevirathne, Krishan Jayasooriya, Ishara Madushan and Amila Bandara being included.
They are still without probably their fastest man Rumesh Ramdas who was instrumental in pulling off that miraculous victory over Kandy last year. The former St. Anthony full-back has been carrying a hamstring injury for the last couple of weeks and could only return in three weeks time.
Air Force had a golden opportunity to beat CR and FC last week having taken a 6-3 half time lead, but they ended up losing 21-9.
CH to persist with Rohitha Rajapaksa
CH and FC will persist with Rohitha Rajapaksa at fly half for their Dialog Rugby League encounter against Army SC at the Race Course Grounds in Reid Avenue today (10).
The match would start at 3.45 p.m after bad light affected the games last week.
A rejuvenated CH and FC were beaten 6-23 by the defending champions Kandy SC last Saturday despite creating opportunities in the first half and much of the criticism lay in the hands of Rajapaksa.
Coach Tavita Tugalese admitted that Rajapaksa had a difficult game but said he would persist with the former Navy SC and Army SC player for at least one more game.
“We have ironed out a few of the issues we had in the first game and we are giving him one more game at fly half,” Coach Tugalese said.
CH and FC have effected as many as seven changes to the team with three new forwards occupying the front row positions.
Sathya Ranatunga and Henry Terrance have dropped to the bench with Yohan Perera and Ijaa Ahamed coming into the team.
In addition, Susantha Boteju replaces Pulasthi Bandara as the hooker.
Imesh Aponso and Danushka Malith will come in for Sasanka Ariyaratne and Chathura Dilshan in the back row while Avishka Lee will take over the scrum-half duties from Faris Ali.
Chula Susantha will move from outside centre to the left wing position to accommodate Dinushan Ariyapala.
Army SC also will ring the changes, with Aravinda Karunaratna replacing Ashoka Jayalal as hooker and Sanjaya Ratnayake coming in for Malith Sanjeewa in the second row.
Army’s back row will also see an overhaul as Upul Abeyrathna, Suramya Herath and Vimod Kumar come in.
Manjula Weerasinghe replaces Mohammed Rizwi at scrum-half while Imanka Ariyapala and Manoj Bandara are the other changes in Army’s back line.