NAIROBI, Kenya, September 20- The main national team going under the name ‘The Morans’ was placed in a relatively tough pool during the Safaricom 7s that starts kick-off Friday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
The home side under new coach, Mike Friday will take on Grenoble from the UK, Uganda Cranes and Rwanda in Pool B where the credentials of the former England coach will be put under test ahead of the 2012/2013 IRB World Series opener in Gold Coast, Australia.
Kenya’s other side Shujaa have all to do to qualify for the Main Cup quarters since they lock horns with tournament favourites Samurai who have part of the New Zealand All Blacks 7s squad in their ranks and Western Province of South Africa in Pool A.
Uganda B side the Cobs complete that group while Spain, Bristol Barracundas, Hamilton Raiders and Chairman’s select, a development side, make up Pool C with Portugal, South Africa’s Elite Player Development side, Zambia and University Select from the host nation completing the 17th edition of the event’s line-up.
“We are not taking anything for granted. We have five HSBC World Series core sides represented since we want this to be a leg of the IRB series in the future,” Kenya Rugby Union chairman, Mwangi Muthee said.
He was speaking while receiving Sh2.3m in sponsorship from the Capital Group Limited split into Sh1.8m in media support and Sh500,000 in cash for the event that runs until Sunday.
Under the deal, Capital FM listeners stand the chance to win seasonal VIP tickets on afternoon show, The Jam, presented by Cess Mutungi at 5pm.
Muthee added coach Friday was not under anxiety to reclaim the trophy the home team last won in 2010 since he was hired to set up structures that will benefit the side in future.
“We have brought in the professional angle and putting up the hard work now so that we can see the fruits later. Maybe they will come at the Safari 7s, Gold Coast, Dubai or later but when you invest, the fruits will be there,” he asserted.
On the issue of sidelining national 7s champion, Kenya Harlequins from the 16-team roster after Zimbabwe and Tunisia withdrew, the Union chair dispelled claims that internal politics in the sport were responsible for the decision that has sparked heated debate.
“I would like to call that healthy debate. I pay tribute to Harlequins since they are part of the development strategy and they have contributed ten players to the national camp and without them, they won the national league.
“As a Union, we look at the bigger picture and when we invite teams, we look at our development strategy. Inviting the combined universities squad is part of this strategy since some of the players who were not visible in the league can have their chance,” Muthee expressed.
Muthee reiterated his call on the tournament to be fixed three weeks before the start of the IRB World Series to make it part of the major build-up for teams competing in the elite circuit besides aiding it showcase its ability to be part of the annual competition.
Tournament chairman, Sasha Mutai, assured that the last teams to arrive would be in the country by midnight Thursday.
“We have given these players from the university combined who played in France this year and we are giving them an opportunity to hone their skills at the highest level and this should not be misconstrued.
“We want to get rid of the misconception of the Kenyan circuit champions must be represented since for the last 16 editions, they have only played in five,” Sasha added.
SAFARICOM 7S DRAW
POOL A: Samurai, Western Province, Shujaa, Uganda Cobs
POOL B: Kenya, Grenoble, Uganda Cranes, Rwanda
POOL C: Spain, Bristol Barracudas, Hamilton Raiders, Chairman Select
POOL D: Portugal, Elite Player Development, Zambia, University Select