Kenya's Shujaa will be seeking to put their financial challenges behind them when they take the pitch for the Dubai Sevens, the second leg of the 2022-2023 World Rugby Sevens Series, today.
The Damian McGrath-led outfit last Sunday exposed the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) for neglecting them over the last three months where they have not been paid their salaries.
Shujaa’s Willy Ambaka and Billy Odhiambo-led a social media campaign to help them raise funds before Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba intervened on Monday with the government promising to settle all their dues in due time.
Despite the challenges, Shujaa will be hoping to register their first win of the season in Dubai as they face Hong Kong Sevens champion Australia, South Africa and Great Britain in Group A.
The team will specifically be keen to produce positive results on the pitch as they had a start to forget last month.
Shujaa had a poor start to the season at the Hong Kong Sevens where they finished last without a win.
Shujaa only managed to squeeze a point from the leg when they lost to New Zealand 43-0 in the Challenge Trophy quarterfinals before shockingly going down to Uruguay 10-7 in the semifinal for 13th place. That is after losing all their group matches.
Kenya will kick off their hunt with a tough matchup against World Series defending champions Australia today at 10.40am before locking horns against African champions South Africa at 2.20pm.
McGrath’s last group match will be at 7.18pm against Great Britain as Kenya eyes to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Kenya will have to put up with early pressure as they sit at the bottom of the log with one point with the threat of relegation very much looming this season.
The number of teams for the 2024 Series will be reduced from 16 to 12 to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.
Meanwhile, Kenya Lionesses kicked off their Dubai Sevens International Invitational Women’s Cate with a 10-5 win over Tunisia. The Lionesses will also play South Africa and France Women Development.
Elsewhere, World Rugby has outlined an exciting new framework for the future of the Sevens World Series, which will see rugby sevens further embrace its ‘sportainment’ DNA, combining sport and fan entertainment in a festival atmosphere at some of the world’s best-loved locations.
The remodeled Sevens World Series will include seven events, in seven iconic global destinations, across seven months, featuring the best 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams and is set to kick off in December 2023.
Following consultation with the participating nations, the men’s Series will reduce from 16 to 12 teams, aligning with the Olympic competition model and bringing the number of men’s and women’s teams even, while allowing for more optimal match scheduling opportunities.
An annual ‘Grand Finale’ event will take place in the seventh round, which will see the top eight ranked teams after six rounds compete to be crowned Series champions.
The teams ranked ninth to 12th will join the top four ranked teams from the Challenger Series in a high stakes relegation play-off competition which will see four teams secure their places in the next edition of the Series. [Additional reporting by World Rugby]