By Shamzeer Jaleel
Sri Lanka Sevens rugby outfit led by former Antonian and Kandy SC player, Danushka Dayan departed for South Korea today (20) morning as they vie for qualification for next year’s Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Several seniors such as DanushkaRanjan and SrinarthSooriyabandara are absent from the squad due to injury and the young team will have an uphill battle ahead of them. The two-day event will take place at the Namdong Asiad Stadium in Incheon, South Korea with the tournament winners joining hosts Japan at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Defending Asian Games Gold Medalist Hong Kong are the top seed for the tournament, which features eight other outfits from Asia, bar Japan, who as hosts in 2020, are exempt from qualifying.
Nine sides have signed up for the challenge, including series participants China, Taipei, South Korea (hosts), Singapore, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia and Afghanistan.
A total of 12 teams make the Olympic Games, with the top four teams in the World Rugby Rankings obtaining automatic qualification. Another six slots open up for the regional qualifiers from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South Africa. While hosts Japan take the other qualification spot, the remaining spot is for the Repechage tournament that takes place next year.
In the 2015 Olympic qualifier held in Monaco ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sri Lanka finished in 4th place; behind Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Pool ‘A’ - Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Malaysia
Pool ‘B’ - China, Philippines and Singapore
Pool ‘C’ - Sri Lanka, South Korea and Afghanistan.
Danushka Dayan (Capt.), AdeeshaWeerathunge, BuddhimaPiyarathne, ChathuraSenavirathne, Iroshan Silva, Jason Dissanayake, Kevin Dixon, RavinduHettiarachchi, Reza Raffaideen, Sachith Silva, SudharakaDikkumbura, VimukthiRahula, Head Coach - Matt Lee (NZ), Assistant Coach -Mohamed Mushtaq, Manager - Rohan Chinthaka and Physio -TharakaVithanage.