The national 15s rugby team head coach Paul Odera, believes the Simba’s as they are popularly known, has got what it takes to defy all odds and secure a place at the coveted rugby World Cup set for 2023 in France.
Kenya will play in pool A with France, New Zealand, Italy and America 1 at the competition should they qualify.
If Kenya fails to secure Africa 1 and go through the repechage, they’ll play in Pool C with Wales, Australia, Fiji and Europe 1 following completion of the Pool Allocation Draw was done in December 2020 in Paris.
And Odera who was appointed to be in charge of the team from 2019 is very optimistic that the team will deliver when it matters most.
“Making the World Cup in France is something much bigger than just rugby for us,” Odera told World Rugby.
“Because to us it’s to bring the country together, to bring all the different races together, to bring all the different tribes, ethnic groups together, to bring those disparate social groups together and for the country to start believing in the men.”
He added: “What’s driving me is my passion and that passion is what I’m trying to get into the players, into my coaching staff, into the Kenya Rugby Union as an organization, is that we are transforming this country through the game of rugby and we’re going to get success on and off the field.”
Last month, Odera took the first step on the long road that could lead the Simbas to France when he named a bumper 102-man training squad to continue preparations for their opening RWC 2023 qualifiers in July.
This initial squad will undergo a series of assessment tests after which the team will be narrowed down to 50 players and later, a final list of 30 players who will compete in this year’s Rugby Africa Cup.
The management has scheduled several training camps that will either be virtual or face to face, depending on the next directive on Covid-19 protocols.
This is in preparation for the Stellenbosch camp in June followed by the RA cup in July 2021 where the Simbas will host Senegal and Zambia.
Among those who earned a place in the bloated squad is Fijian Jone Kubu who has been in Kenya for the past five years playing for Kabras Sugar RFC thus is eligible to play for the Simbas having met the minimum requirement for three years according to World Rugby residency rules.
Kubu has played an integral part in the rise for the Kakamega-based outfit and was key for the side when they won the Kenya Cup in 2016 after beating Impala and Enterprise Cup in 2019 against the same opposition.
The tournament is scheduled to run from 8 September 2023 to 21 October 2023 with the confirmed fixtures and kick-off times to be announced in due course.
Rugby World Cup 2023 Pools:
Pool A: New Zealand, France, Italy, Americas 1, Africa 1
Pool B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia / Pacific 1, Europe 2