Kenya have paid the price for their meek run in the Las Vegas Sevens round by landing defending champions Fiji, Samoa (runners up in the just concluded leg) and Canada for the Vancouver leg this weekend.
Shujaa managed five points in Las Vegas, having bowed out at the semi-finals of the Challenge Trophy following a 24-7 loss to Spain on Sunday night.
That consequently saw them pooled in Group B against better seeded teams and it will be the first time Shujaa will not take on France this season, having faced the French in each of the last five rounds in group matches.
Kenya still have bitter memories of Vancouver where they lost last season’s Cup final to Fiji and will hope to avenge the defeat especially given the Pacific Island nation has been handing them heavy defeats since that loss in 2018.
Samoa and Canada have also notched wins against Paul Murunga’s largely inexperienced side and it will be interesting to see how they cope in the Canadian city.
In Vegas, where they collected 10 points last season, Kenya managed half that tally, after two wins against Argentina (24-19) and Japan (28-15) in the final pool match and Challenge Trophy quarter-finals respectively.
That was after losses to USA (26-10) and France (31-7) had put paid to their hopes of reaching a maiden Cup quarter-final this season with the win against the Pumas seeing them drop to the Challenge Trophy.
Shujaa looked on course for the maximum eight points in the second tier competition but after beating Japan, they got the going tough against Spain to end their campaign with a 13th place on the 16-team table with 17 points.
Kenya landed in Vegas in desperate need of points to remain their core team status following a pointless run in Sydney, Australia and with five more legs to conclude the season, they will be hoping the second half of the campaign is kind to them.
Meanwhile, hosts USA defended their Vegas crown after a 27-0 thrashing of Samoa in the Cup final for only their second Sevens title in their 16-year history. It was a relief for coach Mike Friday who had seen his side miss out of the big prize after four straight second place finishes.
USA now lead the table with 98 points, five ahead of New Zealand with Fiji and England in third and fourth positions respectively. Holders of the top four positions at the end of the season will get direct tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, making the fight fierce.