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Kenya’s 15’s rugby team faces injury crisis ahead of Tunisia clash

By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s 15’s head coach Ian Snook faces an injury crisis in his camp with six players unfit to train ahead of their final two games in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup clash against Tunisia and Namibia in August.

Kenya does not play until Aug 11 against Tunisia, but team manager Wangila Simiyu confirmed that several players are carrying knocks and long-term injuries which may throw a spanner in the works for the coach as he looks to guide Kenya to its first World Cup appearance in Japan in 2019.

Winger Tony Onyango, Leo Seje, Wilson K’Opondo, Vincent Mose and Philip Ikambili are all doubtful for the assignment as the team starts its residential training camp in Nanyuki on Thursday.

“The injuries are part of any team and ours must find a way to overcome them. We are certain to lose a few players, but what is important is to have stronger replacements as the two matches are critical in deciding if Kenya will qualify for the World Cup,” said Simiyu on Thursday in Nairobi.

Winger Onyango suffered a shoulder injury while his colleague Seje has not shaken off a toe injury, which he picked up in June in Morocco.

Both players are not expected to be fit for the assignment against Tunisia in Nairobi (Aug 11) and Namibia away in Windhoek (Aug 18).

The team manager also poured cold water on the availability of team captain K’Opondo saying he is not likely to play again until November. This even rules him out of the repechage tournament, should Kenya finish second to Namibia in the Gold Cup and miss automatic qualification to the World Cup as Africa representatives.

K’Opondo has multiple injuries and will require time to heal and get over them. Fullback Vincent Mose and hooker Phillip Ikambili have slim chances of fighting their way back into the team having recovered fully, but lacking match fitness. Mose got injured in Nairobi in June playing against Uganda, while Ikimbili, just like Seje, was left in the medical chambers in Casablanca after Kenya beat Morocco in June.

Kenya is placed second with 12 points in the Gold Cup behind Namibia who scored bonus points with huge wins in their three matches.

The winner of the group gets the automatic ticket to the World Cup in 2019 in Japan while the last team will be dropped to the Silver Cup, whose winner Zambia has already secured promotion to the top tier league next season.

Should Kenya win against Tunisia, they will have secured a top-two finish and a chance to play at either the finals in Japan (if they beat Namibia a week later) or take the repechage route to play Canada, Germany and Hong Kong in November in Marseille, France. Unlike previous repechages, the four teams will play in a round-robin format with the winner claiming the ticket to Japan.


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