Rugby Rugby

Wambua rallies Lionesses for core status

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Kenya Lionesses head coach Kevin Wambua addresses the press while announcing the squad to the Hong Kong Sevens and the Commonwealth Games in Australia on March 28, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 29- Having finished fifth following a Main Cup quarter final loss at the hands of Italy during last season’s World Sevens Series qualifier, Kenya Lionesses head coach Kevin Wambua has rallied his charges to go for the big prize at this year’s tournament.

The winner of the two-day tournament will earn a berth at next year’s World Rugby Women’s Sevens series, something that the Lionesses have been craving for, in a long while.

The team will play two competitive tournaments in April, flying out to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia just after Hong Kong.

However, Wambua says Hong Kong is their biggest priority.

“It (Hong Kong) is very important for us, even bigger than the Commonwealth Games. I mean, we are still humble and proud to be participating at the Commonwealth Games but Hong Kong has been our goal and focus all through,” Wambua told Capital Sport.

He adds; “Last time we lost in the quarters but we have regrouped and come back stronger. The players are fitter and confident and I have faith in them and at the end of day 2 I am pretty sure we will be among the best.”

Kenya Lionesses winger Sinaida Aura in action during training as Philadelphia Olando watches. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

Lionesses are in Pool X of the qualifiers and will face off with African rivals South Africa, who beat them to the Africa 7s title last year, Papua New Guinea and Mexico.

The South Africans will be Kenya’s biggest opponents in that group and Wambua is optimistic they have done their homework right to beat them after several failed attempts.

“We have assessed a few of their games, more recently how they played in Sydney and we know how to counter them and the kind of approach to have when we meet them,” Wambua affirmed.

“We are currently changing our technical approach. We believe our players needed to be strong mentally and that is what we have been working on for the last three weeks,” the coach added.

-Blended squad-

Wambua has named a squad blend with youth and experience for both the Hong Kong Sevens and the Commonwealth Games and the tactician is confident they have what it takes to challenge for good performance in both tournaments.

President Uhuru Kenyatta poses for a photo with Kenya Lionesses players and technical bench officials during the Commonwealth flag handover ceremony at State House on march 27, 2018. PHOTO/PSCU

“We have balanced youth and experience. The young players have worked hard and raised their hands for selection. If you look at the squad, most players are between the ages of 23 and 26 and as we play now, our eyes are also on the future,” the coach opined.

Despite failing to play a single tournament enroute Dubai, the tactician is confident that the Kenya Rugby Union women’s 10s tournament has given his girls enough preparation, though they have scheduled to play Wales in a build up match once they land in Hong Kong.

The Lionesses were scheduled to play at the Dubai Sevens tournament last year but the plans were shelved due to an apparent lack in funds at the Union.

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