Kenya eye quick start at World Cup as Simiyu hopes seasoned stars will push team to glory

Kenya will have four players with World Cup experience when they take to the pitch in the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, USA later this month.

Andrew Amonde, Collins Injera, Eden Agero and Willy Ambaka are the only surviving members from the Class of 2013 that reached the semi-finals in the Russia four years ago and they will be expected to translate their knowhow to the rest of the squad who are making their debut at the global tournament.

In the squad named by head coach Innocent Simiyu yesterday, only Injera will be having a crack at his third straight World Cup having played in the 2009 edition in Dubai where Shujaa also reached the last four under Benjamin Ayimba.

Incidentally, Simiyu was also part of the 2009 squad but he now returns as a coach and with his reputation enhanced after Shujaa’s impressive run in the just-concluded 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series.

Dennis Ombachi of Nondies and Sammy Oliech of Impala, Nelson Oyoo (Nakuru), Herman Humwa (Harlequins) and Jeffrey Oluoch (Homeboyz) return to the squad. Ombachi missed out on World Cup action in 2013 after he was excluded from Englishman Mike Friday’s squad.

“The guys have really trained hard and we believe we have selected the best team. We are looking for good performances from the players and hopefully we can get it,” said Simiyu.

In what will be a departure from the past, the tournament’s format will see an initial knockout qualifier featuring the nations ranked ninth to 24th, while the top eight seeds progress automatically to the round of 16.

Kenya will play Tonga in the knockout qualifier on July 20, the winner taking on Scotland in the round of 16 and Simiyu has warned against underestimating their opponents.

“It is an interesting format. This being a knockout, it means you have to adapt very first to the chaos in the game because if the game goes it goes and you have to keep winning to stay in it. The first game versus Tonga will be very critical. We have to start very well,” he added.

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