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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Kenya, China to fight for respect at
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series

NAIROBI (Xinhua) — The women’s rugby sevens teams of Kenya and China may be the most inexperienced sides in this year’s Dubai World Sevens Series, but both will be keen to earn some respect at the tournament, which kicks off on Thursday.

Kenya head coach Kevin Wambua says the performance in Dubai is critical in shaping their preparations ahead of next year’s two top contests - the Olympic qualification and the World Series core status tournament.

“I have high expectations for 2019. Kenya must be ready for next year’s assignments. It will be a big year for us, as we have qualifiers for the women’s World Series as well as the Olympics in Tokyo. We want to use this tournament to test some of the new players coming into the system,” Wambua said on Tuesday.

Wambua is confident his Kenya team will do better after gaining experience from the tournament.

This year there is an added incentive for both men’s and women’s teams, who are not only competing for the coveted World Series title, but also for their ticket to Tokyo 2020, as the 2019 series acts as the principle route for Olympic Games qualification.

In Dubai, 11 core women’s sides will be battling for honors and points, with Kenya’s women named as the invitational team. They are up against series leaders New Zealand, Ireland and Russia in Pool A.

In Pool B, defending champions Australia, one of only two teams to have won the women’s title in Dubai, are set to take on England, the U.S. and new core team China.

Pool C sees Canada grouped with France, Spain and Fiji.

Speaking to World Rugby, China coach Chad Shepherd described it as “massive” for his side to have regained core team status for the 2019 World Sevens Series.

Shepherd knows that currently his players can only benefit from playing against the world’s best teams across the six rounds of the 2019 series.

And that can only stand them in good stead when it comes to the Asian regional qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next year, with qualification the target Shepherd has been set by the Chinese Rugby Football Association.

“I think [core team status] is huge. Personally I think it is massive for us because it means being in those high-pressure situations in quality matches and consistently playing against the world’s best, and testing ourselves in those situations as well,” said Shepherd.

“The team that we have currently got has an average age of about 21, so a lot of those players have not played outside Asia or against these types of teams, [with regards to] physicality, intensity, and speed of the game.”

The coach added, “It is huge for us. Obviously the big thing is to stay up there next year which is the difficult part, but a piece of the puzzle is to try and play this year, learn from our experiences and then stay up there next year with the goal of qualifying for the Olympics.”  

           

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