The Star (Nairobi)

22 February 2013

Kenya: A Tough Call

Kenya have been drawn against New Zealand, France and USA in tricky Pool 'B' during the IRB Hong Kong Sevens slated for March 22-24.

Kenya had a disastrous tournament in Las Vegas, where they only garnered a point after winning only one match and losing five. Kenya managed to clinch the bowl last year in Hong Kong where they beat the United States 14-12

Assistant coach Felix Ochieng termed the pool as difficult. "It's going to be a tough pool playing against three physical sides and we must raise our game from the last leg in Las Vegas if we harbour any hope of qualifying to the Main Cup quarters," added Ochieng.

Kenya have met New Zealand three times this season at the Gold Coast, Dubai and Wellington legs, losing twice and winning once. The most recent meeting was in Wellington when Kenya stunned the hosts 19-14 in an epic semi-final to romp to the Main Cup final.

Kenya Sevens have also met France three times, winning two games and losing one. Their last meeting was in Las Vegas, where a sloppy Kenya team lost 21-17 in the Bowl quarter-finals to be relegated to the Shield category. The country has yet to meet USA so far in the world series this season.

Kenya are currently ranked sixth on the log with 57 points from five tournaments.Pool 'A' will see South Africa, winners of the Las Vegas leg, face Wales, Argentina, and Australia. Samoa, Scotland, England and Portugal face-off in Pool 'C' while Canada, Fiji, Spain and Hong Kong meet in Pool 'D'.

The 2013 Hong Kong Sevens will again host two side-by-side competitions-- a 16-team Sevens world series for the 15 core teams plus Hong Kong, winners of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in 2012, and a 12-team pre-qualification tournament for promotion to HSBC core team status in 2014.

Trevor Gregory, the chairman of the HKRFU said: "The decision to host the pre-qualification tournament alongside the HSBC Sevens world series competition is to reinforce Hong Kong's unique role as the host of the world's largest tournament. The remaining 12 competing teams in the pre-qualification tournament hail from all over the world with two teams from each of the IRB's geographic regions."

Tonga and the Cook Islands will bolster the Hong Kong Sevens traditional Pacific Island presence, while Georgia and Russia represent Europe's hopes for HSBC Sevens world series qualification.

Zimbabwe and Tunisia will add to the African contingent while Mexico and Jamaica will both mark a return to the Hong Kong Sevens from the North American region.

The Hong Kong Sevens continues its role as the showcase event for Asian rugby with the region's second and third-ranked sevens teams--Japan and Chinese Taipei--rounding off the regional participants.

Two additional teams from South America will be decided after regional competitions in late February to complete the 12-team field.

The top four teams from the pre-qualifier will join Hong Kong and the three bottom-placed HSBC SWS teams in an eight-team competition at the London Sevens in May to decide promotion to the 2014 Series.

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