NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Former captain Wilson Kopondo and
three new faces were part of the squad of 33 named Sunday by
Kenya 15s head coach Ian Snook to prepare for the 2019 Rugby
World Cup (RWC) Repechage qualifiers in Marseille, France.
The New Zealander who is aiming to lead the East African nation
ranked 28th in the world to their maiden global rugby jamboree
in Japan next year, handed first call-ups to Thomas Okidia,
Ephraim Oduor and Elvis Namusasi.
Curtis Lilako, Oscar Simiyu, Isaac Adimo, Edmund Anya and
Erick Kerre were omitted from the line-up to make way for the
quartet with Snook and his side launching their preparations for
the inter-continental qualifier on Monday in Nairobi.
Kopondo, a star of the 2017 side that finished second in the
Africa Gold Cup missed the entire campaign this term where once
again, Kenya fell at the final hurdle to continental champions
Namibia who outclassed them 53-28 at their Windhoek backyard.
The defeat cost them an automatic ticket to the RWC but in
repeating as runners-up in the continental championship that
doubled as a qualifier for Japan 2019, Kenya will play in the
Repechage slated for Nov. 13 to 23 in Marseille.
Kenya has been seeded third for this competition based on
their global ranking of 28 behind Hong Kong, China (21) and
Canada (23) with Germany (29) fourth in what will be a tight
contest to make the Japan finals.
It was a second successive heartbreak for Kenya in their
quest to make the World Cup, having also come close in the
qualifiers for the 2015 edition in England.
However, their chance to go begging when they lost 10-23 to
Zimbabwe in their last game of a four-nation round robin
competition that was held in Madagascar on July 6, 2014,
allowing Namibia to steal the direct ticket after they blanked
the hosts 80-0 to top the standings.
Kenya will play their opening Repechage match on Nov. 11
against Canada before tackling Hong Kong, China (Nov. 17) and
Germany (Nov. 23).
The winner of the intercontinental play-off will join Pool B
of the RWC that has titleholders New Zealand, Snook’s former
side and nation of birth, African titans and two-time champions
South Africa and Namibia.
Prior to their loss against Namibia, Snook who succeeded
South African Jerome Paarwater in Jan. had led Kenya to six
victories in a row, twice against Uganda, Tunisia, Morocco and
Kenya Seven Rugby coach Innocent Simiyu steps down