NAIROBI (Xinhua) —
The women’s rugby sevens teams of Kenya and China may be
the most inexperienced sides in this year’s Dubai World
Sevens Series, but both will be keen to earn some
respect at the tournament, which kicks off on Thursday.
coach Kevin Wambua says the performance in Dubai is
critical in shaping their preparations ahead of next
year’s two top contests - the Olympic qualification and
the World Series core status tournament.
“I have high
expectations for 2019. Kenya must be ready for next
year’s assignments. It will be a big year 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 on Tuesday.
confident his Kenya team will do better after gaining
experience from the tournament.
there is an added incentive for both men’s and women’s
teams, who are not only competing for the coveted World
Series title, but also for their ticket to Tokyo 2020,
as the 2019 series acts as the principle route for
Olympic Games qualification.
In Dubai, 11
core women’s sides will be battling for honors and
points, with Kenya’s women named as the invitational
team. They are up against series leaders New Zealand,
Ireland and Russia in Pool A.
In Pool B,
defending champions Australia, one of only two teams to
have won the women’s title in Dubai, are set to take on
England, the U.S. and new core team China.
Pool C sees
Canada grouped with France, Spain and Fiji.
World Rugby, China coach Chad Shepherd described it as
“massive” for his side to have regained core team status
for the 2019 World Sevens Series.
knows that currently his players can only benefit from
playing against the world’s best teams across the six
rounds of the 2019 series.
And that can
only stand them in good stead when it comes to the Asian
regional qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next
year, with qualification the target Shepherd has been
set by the Chinese Rugby Football Association.
[core team status] is huge. Personally I think it is
massive for us because it means being in those
high-pressure situations in quality matches and
consistently playing against the world’s best, and
testing ourselves in those situations as well,” said
that we have currently got has an average age of about
21, so a lot of those players have not played outside
Asia or against these types of teams, [with regards to]
physicality, intensity, and speed of the game.”
added, “It is huge for us. Obviously the big thing is to
stay up there next year which is the difficult part, but
a piece of the puzzle is to try and play this year,
learn from our experiences and then stay up there next
year with the goal of qualifying for the Olympics.”