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Kenya former captain chases final ticket to Rugby World Cup

By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s former rugby 15s captain Wilson Kopondo made his return to the national team ahead of the World Cup repechage in Marseille, France next month.

Kopondo, who last featured for the Kenyan team last year in the Cup of Nations at Kings Park Sports Ground in Hong Kong, has received the nod from head coach Ian Snook and will join the 30-member team for training.

Kenya lost to Namibia in the Africa qualifiers and has to go through the repechage, which brings together three other teams who lost out in continental qualifiers.  Germany (Europe), Canada (America) and Hong Kong, China (Asia) will all take part in the tournament.

The winner of the four-team tournament, which will kick off in Marseille, France on Nov. 11, will earn the last ticket to play at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

“The team is strong and we need to start playing strongly against top teams,” Snook said on Tuesday. “To get better and better we must test ourselves against the best and that should be the next step.”

Snook also called in Kenya Sevens stars Collins Injera, Andrew Amonde, Samuel Oliech, Willy Ambaka and Nelson Oyoo to bolster his squad as he expected fast and quick games against the opponents in Marseille.

This is the first time the Kenyan sevens team players will play 15s rugby on the international stage since 2015.

A new addition to the team is Kenya’s utility player William Reeve, who caught the head coach’s eye on the local sevens circuit.

The team, which has been facing financial difficulty since moving to camp two weeks ago, will depart for Bucharest on Oct. 31 and play against Romania in a buildup match on Nov. 3.

“Our opponents in the Africa qualifiers for the World Cup capitalized on our mistakes to win. We did poorly in our line-outs and easily conceded turnovers in the ruck. These are areas we must improve to lock down the game,” the coach added.

Kenya will kick off the repechage campaign on Nov. 11 against Canada, who has never missed a World Cup. Hong Kong, China will be their next opponent on Nov. 17.

The two sides met at the Cup of Nations last December in Hong Kong, with the hosts winning 40-30 en route to retaining the trophy.

Kenya’s last match will be against Germany on Nov. 23. The two teams met last year in Nairobi with Kenya losing 30-29.



Kenyan women’s rugby team eyes Dubai Sevens win

By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s women’s rugby team will treat the Dubai Sevens tournament as part of its preparations ahead of next year’s qualifiers for World Series core status and the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Head coach Kevin Wambua believes Kenya will weather the storm and gain more from the second round of the 2018-2019 Women’s World Rugby Sevens Series, which kicks off in Dubai on Nov. 29.

“Our main goal is to be ready for next year. It will be big for us as we have qualifiers for the Women’s World Series as well as the Olympics in Tokyo. We want to use this tournament to test some of the new players coming into the system,” Wambua said here on Tuesday.

Kenya lost to China in last season’s qualifiers for core status in the World Series. However, Wambua is confident his team will do better, after gaining more experience from the tournament and at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April.

“Our training so far has been very positive. I am happy with the new crop of players we have drafted into the team. They have a lot of potential and talent and it will not take long for me to fine-tune their skills and be ready for the Dubai contest and the challenges we expect in the Olympics and World Series qualifiers in 2019,” the coach said.

Kenya has been grouped in Pool A in next month’s Dubai Women’s Sevens and will again clash with Commonwealth Games champions New Zealand, who won the season opener at the Glendale Sevens in the United States last weekend. Kenya will also face Ireland and Russia.

It will be the second appearance for the Kenyan women’s team in the Dubai Sevens. The first time was in 2016 when they participated in Clermont before heading out to Brazil for the Rio Olympics.

Pool B contains the United States, the runners-up at the Glendale Sevens, the 2017 Dubai defending champions Australia, England and China. Pool C will see Canada take on France, Spain and Fiji.

Top two teams in the pool will proceed to the main cup finals. 



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