NAIROBI, Kenya, January 20 – Former national sevens team captain Sidney Ashioya and Peter Ocholla have been recalled to the squad for the Wellington and San Diego legs of the 2008/2009 International Rugby Board (IRB) sevens series.
Nondies flyhalf Biko Adema, Strathmore University scrumhalf Joshua Gathumbi, Impala utility back Nato Simiyu and Allan Onyango have also been called into the expanded fifteen man team which features six halfbacks.
“The reason why we have such a large squad is because we are using these two tournaments to prepare for the World Cup which is one of our main goals this season,” said national coach Benjamin Ayimba.
“Overall we have a squad of eighteen players who will be fighting for places in the team and after these two tournaments (Wellington and San Diego) I expect to have more personnel and players rested for the World Cup,” he added.
Ayimba also ruled out the possibility of new players joining the team before the World Cup starts saying that he and his technical bench will be working with the same players they have had throughout the season and are focusing on building team chemistry.
Ashioya missed the whole of the 2007/2008 campaign because of a knee injury and made his return to competitive rugby in last year’s national sevens circuit.
His fellow Lenana School alumni Ocholla is back in national colours after breaking his ankle in Adelaide last year in the plate final against Tonga.
Ayimba is delighted with the outcome of the Rugby World Cup sevens draw where they will meet England, Tunisia and Hong Kong in Pool E.
Ayimba who spoke after naming an expanded team for the Wellington and San Diego International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series legs however believes that the team is now under immense pressure to perform in Dubai due to the expectations placed on them.
“It’s a very good pool to be in, the only difficulty is that now everyone knows that it is easy so we have to respond to that challenge,” said Ayimba who will be going to his first World Cup as coach.
The team departs for Wellington on January 30 for New Zealand where the Wellington tournament will be held on February 6-7 at the Westpac Trust Stadium which is the home of Super 14 side Hurricanes.
Kenya are in a tough Pool A alongside current IRB series leaders South Africa, Scotland and Tonga.
Kenya have already locked horns with the Springboks in Dubai back in November with the Paul Treu’s side overwhelming their African counterparts 31-0.
The Safari Sevens champions have put the Scots to the sword twice this season first of all with an emphatic 38-0 victory in Dubai then edging them out a week later in George 19-15 in the bowl quarter final.
The series bandwagon then heads to San Diego, California where they will meet defending series champions New Zealand, France who bundled them out of the bowl competition in George in December and Uruguay.
Humphrey Kayange (Captain), Victor Oduor, Collins Injera, Horace Otieno, Lavin Asego, Peter Ocholla, Brian Nyikuli, Nato Simiyu, Gibson Weru, Cyprian Shimenga, Allan Onyango, Sidney Ashioya, Benedict Nyambu, Biko Adema, Joshua Gathumbi.
Benjamin Ayimba (Coach), Felix Ochieng (Assistant coach), Oscar Osir (Team manager), George Odhiambo (Physio), Wanjiku Maina (Nutritionist), Geoffrey Kimani (sprint coach