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Kenya shifts focus to Dubai Sevens after Olympic qualifiers

Last updated 7 months ago | By Xinhua

France's Manoel Dall'igna fights for the ball during the HSBC Paris Sevens Series rugby match between France and Kenya at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris, on June 2, 2019. [Photo by Lucas BARIOULET / AFP]

Kenya's national rugby sevens team hopes to quickly shift focus to the World Sevens Series' season opener in Dubai next month, after excelling at the Africa Sevens tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Dubai Sevens marks the start of this season's men's competition, as well as the race for Olympic glory, as rugby sevens prepares to make its second appearance at the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.

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Kenya is pooled alongside three-time champions South Africa, England and Spain. Captain Andrew Amonde said there will be no room to rest as they turn their attention to the new season hoping to fire on all cylinders.

"Winning the Olympic Games ticket has really inspired the team. Now we have a good opportunity to test ourselves against quality teams at the World Series. We have passed this test before with flying colours," Amonde said on Monday in Nairobi.

The captain added that there is room for improvement and that he expects a stern test in Dubai, as Kenya seeks to restore its dominance on the global circuit.

"There are areas we have to work on but we have nothing to fear. We have prepared well and we will be ready for what the opposition will throw at us in Dubai and on the entire circuit," he added.

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Kenya finished a lowly 14th in last season's World Series after several senior players boycotted the team in a row over pay and bonuses.

That has since been resolved and head coach Paul Feeney has a selection headache with all players at his disposal.

Kenya's women sevens team will also be in Dubai for the second stop on the 2020 women's World Series, after the USA were victorious in the opening round in Glendale, Colorado last month.

In addition to featuring in Dubai, Kenya's Lionesses are also scheduled to play at the Hong Kong Sevens tournament in March, which will also serve as a qualifier for core status in the premier World Sevens Series.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) director of women's rugby, Moses Ndale, said the organization is planning to have the team play in four high-level tournaments as preparation for Tokyo 2020.

"Two tournaments are not enough and we must feature in more events to make sure the girls are on par with other top sides during Tokyo 2020," added Ndale.

Dubai is now one of eight tournaments for the women's teams this season - a record number for the women's competition - and is one of six combined men's and women's events alongside Cape Town, Hamilton, Sydney, Hong Kong and Paris.

"As the first combined men's and women's event of the World Rugby Sevens Series 2020, and with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon, Dubai marks the start of a monumental season for our sport," said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.