NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 16 – With all the effort aimed at qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the national 15s team technical bench will have an opportunity to gauge the capability of non-regulars when the Kenya Simbas welcome Hong Kong in one of the two test matches at the RFUEA Ground on Sunday.
Head coach Jerome Paarwater has made a massive 17 changes from the squad that did duty away to Zimbabwe and Namibia in the 2017 Africa Gold Cup where Kenya finished second after failing to reclaim the continental title from holders Namibia.
Notable inclusions are the returns of former Kenya Sevens star and Nondescripts fly half Biko Adema, Vincent Mose who has had a stint in Uganda, Nondescripts lock Ronnie Mwenesi and young star Alex Olaba from Strathmore Leos.
The friendly that will have an impact in the IRB rankings, will see six players make their full international debuts led by Olaba and Mwamba’s Brad Owako.
Others are James Kubasu, Philip Ikambili, Emanuel Mavala and Benjamin Marshall.
Assistant coach Dominique Habimana, who is in charge of the forwards, admitted it will not be a walk in the park considering they have played Hong Kong before but exuded confidence on his charges.
“We are looking to exploring our depth in this two friendly matches. We have been training with a wide squad and we want to give the boys who have been coming off the bench and those who have been learning the ropes play time,” Habimana said when the squad was announced on Wednesday at the RFUEA Ground.
Team Manager Wangila Simiyu lauded the return of Mose after having a stint with a Ugandan club.
“Mose has been instrumental in the Ugandan league with his club. He is now officially back in Kenya and we are excited to have such a player. Before he left he was instrumental in our team that is during the Africa Cup 2013/2014 season,” Simiyu said.
“He has been involved in the Uganda training programmes and a player with that exposure and experience defines a world class player. We will be looking forward on Sunday to see if he will give us what he left,” he added.
The team will be captained by Kabras Sugar RFC lock George Nyambua and assisted by Patrice Agunda from Kenya Harlequins.
Nyambua, who brings in the experience gained from the Africa Gold Cup matches, warned his charges not to down play Hong Kong, outlining that they will come seeking revenge.
“Hong Kong will come hard on us because we beat them in August last year but we are prepared and will not underrate them. This is a good preparation for the World Cup. I don’t see much change from the squad because we have been training for a while as a team so we know each other; it’s just a matter of synergy,” Nyambua said.
-World Cup preps-
The Team Manager believes the team will be ready for the 2019 World Cup qualifiers that begin next year since they have kicked off the preparations in earnest.
They are set to play a four nation tournament in the Hong Kong Nations Cup in November where they will take on Russia, Chile and hosts Hong Kong.
“We are not going to rest even after these two friendly matches. We will continue with training ahead of the Hong Kong tournament. All our focus is to qualify for the World Cup and I believe it is possible,” Simiyu declared.
In 2015, the Kenya Simbas were on the brink of making history by qualifying for their first ever World Cup but were denied the historic chance by Namibia.
- Vincent Mose, 14. Dennis Muhanji, 13. Patrice Agunda (Vice Captain), 12. Brad Owako, 11. Alex Olaba, 10. Biko Adema, 9.Lyle Asigilwa, 1. James Kubasu, 2. Philip Ikambili, 3. Dennis Karani, 4. Emmanuel Mavala, 5. Oliver Mang’eni, 6. Elkeans Musonye, 7. George Nyambua (captain), 8. Edwin Machanje Replacements 16. Peter Karia, 17. Oscar Simiyu, 18. Bram Mayaka, 19. Ronnie Mwenesi, 20. Steve Otieno, 21. Sam Onsomu, 22. Kenny Andola, 23. Benjamin Marshall.