By Asanka Gammanpila
Their history made them the most elite of all rugby playing clubs when vintage folks and high society patrons in their Sunday best made it an exclusive tradition where the culture of rugby was inseparable from their lives.
Today it seems there is a place for anyone who wants to enroll after a bunch of experienced players from their last year’s squad made their exit leaving the Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club (CR and FC) compelled to look for young blood in the 2012 rugby season to save face.
Fly half Nigel Ratwatte, scrum half Srinath Sooriyabandara, winger Wishwamithra Jayasinghe and flanker Sharo Fernando crossed over to the Upcountry Lions while Mohamed Sheriff, Ashean Karthlis and Terrance Henry sought greener pastures with Havelocks. Dushanth Lewke has re-joined Kandy making up eight players who formed the exodus.
Exciting centre Lasintha de Costa has been appointed as the captain after some impressive years with the club. De Costa is a proud product of Isipathana College and represented the school’s team from 2002-04.
He made his club debut in 2007 and went on to represent the national side that same year.
De Costa has some senior players like crack third row forward Ishan Noor, Shehan Dimithri, Ashan de Costa and Heshan Guneratne.
Last year CR ended the league tournament in fourth place behind Kandy, Navy and Havelocks as they managed to secure only four wins out of 10 games played. CR had to be content with the number Two slot in the League for 12 consecutive years till 2010 and their last major title was the Clifford Cup in 2006 with a smashing 37-5 win over Havelocks in the final.
They won the President's Trophy by overcoming CH and FC 22-11 in the final of 2007.
Former CR player CP Abeygunawardana is the head coach of the side while ex-CR captain and hooker Viraj Prashantha trains the forwards.
The new faces at CR are a number of school leavers in junior national caps Sajid Suhaib (Isipathana), Shehan Pathirana (Royal), Hafiz Adahan (Trinity), Dilshan Kelaniyagoda (Trinity) and Mekalanka Promodya (Isipathana).
The rest of school players are Nipuna Devinda (Isipathana), Prasad Madushanka (Isipathana), Duminda Nayakaratne (Trinity), Rishan Pramageeth (Wesley) and Pium Jayasinghe (St. Joseph’s).
The key players in CR’s back division are Lasintha de Costa the outside centre while his brother Ashan de Costa plays a vital role as full back. But he also has to play as centre, winger and fly half when needed for such is their search for important players.
Others in their line include two foreign players, New Zealanders Luke Maggeriege who plays as fly half and centre Shabir Slaimanahel. They also enrolled another overseas player in Tongan-born New Zealander, third row forward Palatasala Palupe before the vital game against Havelocks over the weekend, but they went down to the Park Club 38-7.