By Harsha Amarasinghe
Kandy Sports Club would once again be overwhelming favourites to clinch the Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament when their season gets underway at Maitland Crescent this weekend.
Having dominated the last two seasons, the team from the Hill Capital will look to claim what could be their 19th league title.
With senior man Kishore Jehan retiring from rugby, the defending champions recruit Havelock prop forward Ashan Darling who would provide competition for Yakoob Ali, Piyumal Manchanayake and Ganuka Dissanayake for a place in the front row while Damith Dissanayake looks certain to remain their hooker for the season.
Centre Gayan Weeraratne who is set to takeover the captaincy from his brother Roshan will be without the service of wing three quarter Vishvamithra Jayasinghe who has been handed a lengthy suspension, but Anurudda Wilwara’s return from injury will see Kandy sending out a deadly backline which would feature Danushka Ranjan, Richard Dharmapala, Gayan Weeraratne and of course the full-back Thilina Wijesinghe.
Kandy recovered from a sloppy start last year to eventually seal the domestic double, but the head coach Sean Wijesinghe would want his players to stamp their authority from the very beginning this time around.
Havelock Sports Club who finished second last year are expected to be their nearest rival once again for the most prestigious title in the country’s inter-club arena.
Sanath Martis who led Royal College for inter-school glory earlier this year has now been appointed as the head coach of the Havelock Town Club. The rolling maul is one of Martis’ main tactics using the powerful forwards and it was used for a great effect during the inter-school. However, the veteran head coach would have to bring the best out of the Havelock backline if they are to overcome Kandy.
CH and FC have brought in number of senior players as well as some very promising school leavers in a major revamp at the Maitland Crescent, but lack of experience in playing alongside each other could cause problems for Rohitha Rajapaksa’s side especially at the start of the season, and having to play Kandy in the opening match certainly doesn’t help the cause.
CR and FC have appointed wing three quarter Kavindu Perera as the club captain for the upcoming season. The arrival of Reeza Raffaideen from Police looks to be a very good signing, given the fact that they struggled for tries in the previous season. However, it’s very unlikely that they would be one of the title contenders despite recruiting some good players.
Navy Sports Club meanwhile have lost number of senior players including their last season’s top scorer Lee Keegal. However, the Welisara Club has been able to bring in some school leavers from Isipathana College and Science College which will hopefully strengthen them, but whether they would be able to fill up the shoes of the likes of Sajith Saranga, Lee Keegal and Sathya Ranatunga remains to be a doubt.