Kenya Simbas head coach Paul Odera is optimistic Kenya can qualify for their first Rugby World Cup.
The Simbas kick off their preparation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers today with morning sessions at the RFUEA Grounds.
Despite the Kenya Cup entering a penultimate stage with playoffs just few weeks ahead, 81 players were called up for national training sessions which will mainly focus on the conditioning.
Odera’s technical team has settled on a starting list of 66 local players and 15 plying their trade overseas.
“We’re glad to welcome back Geoffrey Okwach and Davis Chenge from a foot injury and a concussion respectively. Unfortunately, Griffin Musila is still in rehab after undergoing a knee surgery late last year, but we are keeping tabs on him as we work on his Return to Play Protocol,” Odera said.
The 66 players have been divided into three teams based on their locations, the Nairobi based players will train with Michael Owino, the Western-based players will have their sessions with Richard Ochieng in Kakamega while Odera is in talks with Nakuru’s Menengai Oilers technical team to see how they will assist with the Rift Valley-based players.
“Once the Kenya Cup league is over, we shall review the players and then reduce them to 40 before settling down with a 35-man squad that will go for the RWC Qualifiers. This is a very important year for the Simbas as we look to make the World Cup for the first time in July,” he said.
The World Cup next year will be held in France.
Odera believes protection, respect, honesty, perseverance, leadership and a warrior spirit can assist the Simbas in their quest to reach France.
“What’s driving me is my passion and that passion is what I’m trying to get into the players, into my coaching staff, into the Kenya Rugby Union as an organisation.
“We are transforming this country through the game of rugby and we’re going to get success on the field and off the field,” Odera said.
Among the players called up are Fijian-born Kabras Sugar full back Jone Kubu alongside foreign-based Brad Owako who has also been handed a call up with his last appearance in Simbas squad being during Jerome Paarwaters reign.
Mwamba’s and Kenya 7s veteran Collins Injera has been named in the team for the first time since the 2018 Repechage.
Kenya 7s playmaker Tony Omondi is also back to the team alongside fellow teammates Billy Odhiambo, Paul Opiyo, Alex Aturo and Charles Kuka.
Willy Ambaka has also been included in the team alongside Malcolm Onsando, Emmanuel Silungi, Monate Akuei, Cameron Coulson, Brayden Barrat and Oscar Ouma.
The Director of Rugby, Thomas Odundo, stated that the KRU is looking at having friendlies in May-June but nothing other than the Qualifiers has been confirmed just yet.
“Ideally, we’d like to let the Kenya Cup league finish, have players recover from the season as we get our overseas back in.
“We will then have about four to six weeks of intense training and then play matches of a higher quality than we are going to experience in July because if we don’t play these higher quality teams, we will not be able to have the players mentally prepared and also for coaches to identify which of our players are capable of playing at a much higher level,” Odera said.