NAIROBI, Kenya, December 3 – The bar has definitely been raised by no one but the Kenya Rugby Sevens team themselves for the Dubai Sevens that starts on Friday.
After coming so close last season in Adelaide, Humphrey Kayange and company have indicated that they will be going for nothing short than winning the tournament at the Sevens Stadium.
Benjamin Ayimba’s selection of tried and tested warriors has all the makings of an epic 2009/2010 International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series campaign.
His controversial withdrawal of his players from the ongoing National Sevens Circuit paid handsome dividends last year but it will be interesting to see this time round whether the players will continue to match up to their battle hardened opponents.
And they do not come any tougher than Kenya’s Pool C adversaries who happen to be England, Russia and United States all of whom relish the physical nature of the game.
Despite that threat, Kenya has proved over the last two seasons that they can handle the close quarter onslaught from their counterparts especially at the set piece where quick ball will be required to unleash the quick silver backs like Innocent Simiyu and last season’s top try scorer Collins Injera.
The absence of Allan Onyango may water down the impact the forwards may have upfront especially in the ball carrying department but it opens the door for Mean Machine enforcer Wilson K’opondo will be relishing his opportunity to destroy whoever stands in his channel.
Victor Oduor is also expected to be at his rampaging best with his ability to hold off would be defenders and offload his passes to the likes of Nyikuli, Kayange and Simiyu running off his shoulder.
Apart from Injera, the Safari Sevens champions have speed aplenty in Horace Otieno whose physical prowess and slicing runs make him a potent weapon to bring on later in the game.
Kenya first match is at 9.26 a.m. Kenyan time against the Russians. Like their drinks, the men from Eastern Europe posses a lethal cocktail of punch and which could leave the Kenyan defence stretched for most of the 22 minutes.
Next up is the Americans at 1.02 p.m., an encounter that could leave Ayimba’s men sore from a potential defensive blitz.
Kenya will not have to worry about last season’s most valuable player Ollie Phillips when they lock horns with arch rivals England at 5.52 p.m.
Phillips is currently wreaking havoc for French giants Stades Francais in the Top 14 and Heineken Cup but the Red Rose brigade still have a lot of damaging runners in Fijian Isoa Damu and the legendary Ben Gollings.
Dubai Sevens draw:
Pool A: South Africa, Wales, Australia, Arabian Gulf
Pool B: Fiji, Samoa, Scotland, Zimbabwe
Pool C: England, Kenya, Russia, USA
Pool D: New Zealand, Argentina, France, Portugal