The Hunt Is On!
After 6 months of preparations and re building, it is finally time, for the hunt. The Kenya 7s will be kicking off their 2015/16 campaign at the HSBC sevens world series this weekend in Dubai.
With a ‘new’ technical bench in place, Olympic qualification in the bag, this season is expected to be about one thing, getting ready for Rio 2016. Despite that, the Kenyan fan will be expecting nothing but the best from this side, especially after what we have been through in the last two seasons.
For the opening leg of the series, head coach Benjamin Ayimba has selected a side that both boasts of experience and beaming with youth. The most exciting names in the side for me, come in the all too familiar faces of Oscar Ouma and Willy Ambaka.
After 2 seasons out, the big Willy is back, he has been used as a forward so far, where he has been rather lukewarm by his standards, you feel his big break might be here. Especially when you consider that he will be combining with that man big wheels.
The rest of the squad will probably see the impressive Frank Wanyama complete the starting forwards line up, with Lughonzo, Biko, Collins and Billy lining up in the backs. Bush Mwale will most probably provide the extra punch from the bench alongside Leonard Mugaisi and debutants Robert Aringo, Jeff Oluoch and Nelson Oyoo.
A formidable squad as I mentioned earlier that should put up a real challenge in what is a very tough pool in Dubai.
We couldn’t have asked for a tougher looking start, could we? Key word here being ‘looking.’ We are pooled alongside England, Australia and Wales in Pool D. It looks a lot like the pool of death from the RWC, and indeed it will be at the weekend.
This will be a real acid test for the side and couldn’t have come at a better time, it will be a perfect opportunity to gauge how much we have improved in the off season, if indeed we have.
The new faces in the squad will have the perfect opportunity to stake a permanent claim in the squad, if you can do it here, there is very little that you can’t handle.
We kick off against last year’s losing finalists in Dubai, Australia, who have already been touted as one of the pre-tournament favourites. With the likes of Henry Speight, Ed Jenkins and Cameron Clark, it goes without saying that this Aussie side is well ahead of us on paper.
This scenario reminds me of Friday’s start to the season at the Gold Coast, pooled against England, Samoa and Spain. First game was against England, not many gave us a chance, on the turf though we managed to choke out a 14 all draw, the rest of that season is well documented.
If this side can give a similar performance here, or even do better, there is no telling the amount of confidence it will build in them.
Game two will be against the English, who from what I recall were Benja’s favourite side to beat. It won’t be easy though, it has never been really. Tom Mitchell returns to captain the side which features the likes of Dan Norton, Phil Burgess and James Rodwell.
With the English players gunning for a place in team GB for the Olympics expect each one of them to play their socks off here.
Our best chance for a win, in this pool on paper will be against the Welsh, who like the English players will be gunning for a place on team GB. We have had some memorable encounters against Wales, some more than others, especially last season.
It promises to be an exciting two days of great rugby, coupled with the surprises a new season springs up. I’d be content with a win from this pool, if we can make it to the quarter finals I’d be through the roof. A strong showing here to go with whatever result comes, will be all I’ll be looking out for.
Fixtures to be played on Friday 4th December :
Kenya vs Australia – 10:36 am.
Kenya vs England – 1:58 pm.
Kenya vs Wales – 7:20 pm.
Happy hunting Lions..