Lionesses bemoan lack of friendlies ahead of World Cup qualifiers

By Clement Wekulo: Wednesday, June 12th 2019 at 08:08 GMT +3 | Rugby
Kenya’s Camilla Atieno dives in a try against Argentina in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series qualifier on April 5. [AFP]

National women’s rugby 15s head coach Felix Oloo believes the two-legged Elgon Cup tie against Uganda is not enough in preparing the team for the 2021 World Cup qualifiers slated for August in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Kenyans, who have not played a competitive match in four years, will host the Uganda Lady Cranes in the first leg of the Elgon Cup in Kisumu next weekend. 

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The Lionesses will then make the trip to Kampala for the return leg on July 13 and Oloo hopes the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) can add a host of quality test matches in their roster as they chase a maiden appearance at the global showpiece. 

“I honestly don’t think the two matches are enough in preparing the team. It would be great if we can get other quality opponents as we seek to gauge ourselves. The federation (KRU) might not be in a position to do that now and we just have to work with what is available,” Oloo told the Standard Sports.

Oloo has been working with a provisional squad of 50 which was earlier this week whittled down to 40 and the tactician is impressed with the team’s level of commitment.

“The girls have shown massive improvement and it is evident that they are on the right track. They have been working hard in training and I hope the two matches against Uganda will give us a true picture of where we are,” Oloo said.

The Lionesses provisional squad features a good number of players drawn from the national Sevens team including skipper Philadelphia Olando, Sheila Chajira, Grace Adhiambo and Camilla Cynthia.

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“They have been playing at the big stage and their experience comes in handy in terms of offering leadership both on and off the pitch,” Oloo said, in reference to the Sevens players.

At the 2021 World Cup qualifiers, Oloo’s charges will battle for the single ticket reserved for the continent against hosts South Africa, Madagascar and Uganda with the winner booking an automatic slot to the tournament scheduled for New Zealand.

The second-ranked team will face  South American opposition next year with the winner being handed a second chance by heading to a Repechage tournament.

“I have watched South Africa play and they will definitely give us stiff competition. It won’t be easy for them as well and they might be in for a rude shock if they underrate us,” concluded Oloo.

Lionesses 15s Provisional squad

Hellen Achieng, Peruce Muyuka, Marindany Faith, Naomi Kemunto, Millicent Opala, Victoria Gichure, Emmaculate Awuor, Juliet Nyambura, Evelyne Kalamera, Stephanie Waithira, Anne Njeri, Irene Otieno, Imogen Hooper, Mitchelle Akinyi, Stacey Atieno, Knight Otwoma, Asenath Oketeth, Winnie Owino, Winfred Maina, Bernadette Olesia, Philadelphia Olando, Celestine Masinde, Sheila Chajira, Camilla Cynthia, Grace Adhiambo, Vivian Akumu, Janet Okello, Janet Owino, Anne Gorety, Agatha Jamari, Diana Awino, Sophia Ayieta, Christabel Tata, Stella Wafula, Angeline Apiyo, Enid Ouma, Leah Njogu, Mercy Migongo, Veronica Wairimu.

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