January 11, 2008

 

Kenya’s best chance to have a crack at one of the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series tournaments could be realized after the IRB released the draw for the USA leg to be played at San Diego’s PETCO Park on February 9 and 10.

 

Virgin Atlantic Airways-sponsored Kenya has been drawn in Pool C which has Argentina, Canada and Chile. Going by the current form, Kenya has a realistic chance of reaching their only second ever semi-final and possibly finishing top of this pool.

 

Kenya had a successful outing in the first two tournaments by reaching both quarter finals and winning the Plate in George, South Africa. If they continue with this fine form, it is possible Virgin Atlantic Kenya could top or finish second in Pool C to set a date with either South Africa, England or USA at the knock-out stage.

 

In Dubai, Kenya finished second at the Pool stage by beating USA 12-7, Wales 14-12 and narrowly lost 19-24 to Samoa. They were narrowly beaten 17-15 by South Africa in the cup quarter final and 14-17 by Argentina in the Plate semis.

 

One week later, Kenya turned all the screws in George South Africa by beating Zimbabwe 15-10, England 17-7 and lost 0-19 to New Zealand at the Pool stage. Kenya then lost 12-24 to Fiji in the Cup quarters before overcoming Scotland 17-15 and USA 15-14 in the Plate semis and final.

 

The technical bench reacted cautiously to the USA draw. “We have beaten Argentina and came close in Dubai. This will be a grudge match,” explained coach Benjamin Ayimba. Canada has always been a bogey team to the Kenyans.

 

Unlike in the other two tournaments, Kenya has a seemingly soft landing facing Chile first and Canada next before squaring it out with Argentina in the last match. Kenyan fans in the USA are the most vocal and would be expecting a better show this time. “They deserve a solid performance,” Ayimba noted.

 

The team assembles at Brookhouse School on Saturday for a weekend camp where the technical bench will have a good look at the players they intend to give the nod for the next two tournaments.

 

In the meantime, Zimbabwe has been invited for the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens while USA will make their debut in Adelaide, Australia.

Gareth Baber, the Cardiff RFC and Blues Academy skills coach will act as Wales Sevens head coach at the IRB Sevens World Series tournaments in Wellington and San Diego next month. He has been assistant to Dai Rees who resigned from the post last month.

Samoa won the Punta del Este tournament last weekend and Tonga the Plate as they polished up their skills for the Wellington leg of the IRB Sevens World Series next month.

 

USA draw

 

Pool A: New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, France.

Pool B: Fiji, Samoa, Australia, West Indies.

Pool C: Argentina, Kenya, Canada, Chile.

Pool D: South Africa, England, USA, Mexico.

 

Order of play: New Zealand v Wales, Scotland v France, South Africa v USA, England v Mexico, Argentina v Canada, Kenya v Chile, Fiji v Australia, Samoa v West Indies, New Zealand v France, Scotland v Wales, South Africa v Mexico, England v USA, Argentina v Chile, Kenya v Canada, Fiji v West Indies, Samoa v Australia, Wales v France, USA v Mexico, Canada v Chile, Australia v West Indies, New Zealand v Scotland, South Africa v England, Argentina v Kenya, Fiji v Samoa.

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