Sri Lanka may have suffered a 39-22 defeat at the hands of the Philippines in Division I, but the side is one for the future.
With 18 debutants in their 26-man squad and the youngest-ever captain in Omalka Gunaratne, the Sri Lanka Tuskers are using this tournament to further blood new talent coming through the ranks.
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Head coach Fazil Marija was pleased with what he saw in the defeat to the Philippines, and is expecting his side to hit back in the third place play-off with hosts Chinese Taipei on Saturday.
“We would have loved the win but considering it was a very young side there was a lot of heart, resilience and commitment to be proud of,” said Marija.
“I was happy with the back play and the set pieces in the forwards, especially as we were against a very physical and more experienced side in the Philippines pack.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm and spirit in the group. Now we need to keep building morale as Chinese Taipei will be a challenge, but the boys will be up for it.”
As well as aiming to play a role in Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification, Sri Lanka have also been focusing on their sevens set up.
With the Asia Rugby Sevens Series and an Olympic Games qualification tournament later this year, the former fly-half Marija knows these are all part of the platform to blood even more youth.
Having finished fourth with 12-10 and 36-14 defeats to Japan and Korea in the semi-final and bronze medal match at last year’s Asian Games, it is clear what the hope is for 2022.
“Nine of our debutants started against the Philippines with seven more of the eight finishers also debutants. The average age of the team was 24 so there is definitely an eye on the future,” explained Marija.
“We are now building towards the next Asian Games where we are targeting a medal having had a close miss in 2018.”
the Match will be streamed live on Asia Rugby’s Facebook page.
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