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Legend Jonah Lomu to headline Safari 7s

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 6- New Zealand rugby legend, Jonah Lomu will be the main attraction during this year’s Safaricom Safari Sevens that will run from September 21 to 23 in Nairobi.

The retired All Black who had 63 caps for New Zealand is regarded as the first true global superstar of rugby union and he will be at the annual tournament on invitation of organisers.

Lomu who retired from the game in 2007 was penned for last year’s edition but missed out due to his battle against a failing kidney, scored 185 points for the All Blacks during his chequered playing career.

Nine foreign sides are expected to feature during the 2012 event that returns to the Nyayo National Stadium for the second year.

The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) said the resolution to return the event to the stadium was informed by positive feedback from fans who are more concerned about the need for more seating capacity and accessibility from the various parts of Nairobi.

“In the time that this tournament has been in existence, we have seen it grow in leaps and bounds.

“Our goal ultimate goal is to get admission into the IRB series while at the same time ensuring that our fans have a great experience,” said KRU chairman Mwangi Muthee said during the Monday launch of the event.

The teams that have confirmed participation include, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, South Africa Sevens Academy (Emerging Boks), Shujaa, Grenoble, British Army, Samurai and hosts who will be represented by two sides, Kenya and Shujaa.

Muthee added the tournament will provide fans with the chance to see a revamped national 7s team under new coach Mark Friday ahead of the 2012-2013 International Rugby Board (IRB) Series and the Rugby World Cup to be held in Russia.

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The chair declared they were keen to have Kenya host one of the legs of the IRB series when the bidding starts in 2015 and defended the move to host it at the stadium and attract a bigger audience in the bidding plans.

“Rugby is played in stadiums and if we are to host any of the legs of the circuit we must play in a stadium and let the people enjoy great rugby,” he stressed.

Communications provider, Safaricom who are the main sponsors of the tournament have set aside Sh32.6 million to facilitate a successful tournament which is part of the three year deal signed in 2010.

“As one of Africa’s premier 7s tournament, this year’s edition is on every rugby fan diary as a must attend event.

“As title sponsors, we are working closely with KRU to raise the standards of this event so that we can finally realise the dream of being incorporated into the IRB circuit,” said Nzioka Waita, the company’s director of Corporate Affairs.

The 10-round IRB Series kicks off in Gold Coast, Australia, from October 13-14 with the new inclusion in the circuit, La Plata Sevens in Argentina, staging the next leg a week later from October 20-21 as teams gear up for a tough season due to the promotion and relegation criteria to be used in classification.

In keeping with tradition, organizers have also scheduled subsidiary tournaments for schools, women and community rugby which are in line with their vision of developing and spreading the game.

Last year, 2009/2010 IRB series champions, Samoa won the title after beating the fancied Samurai 31-12 in what was dubbed as the ‘Battle of the South Pacific Islands’ final.

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