Kenya 15s rugby team departs for France for World Cup qualifiers

Kenya’s national 15s rugby team flew out to France to take part in the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup (RAC2022), the final qualifying round for African teams for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, a day after the side received a much-needed financial boost from a sponsor.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) announced a Sh10 million (about $84,889) sponsorship from Teita Sisal Estate through its lodge, Hildana Lodge, after the union had launched an appeal for funds to help the team cater for its costs to France.

Kenya Simbas head coach Paul Odera. /CGTN

Kenya Simbas coach Paul Odera, who spoke to CGTN, said the players had been apprised of the financial challenges to eliminate any ambiguity within the camp.

“We have told them there is a financial challenge and these are the measures we are trying to put in place to fill the financial hole that we are in. It may work, it may not work,” Odera said.

“Once you tell the players that, then they are also clear if their allowances delay or if the training facilities change. Then they are aware of it. Not giving them information is always the first mistake.”

Odera added that the players had “responded well” to the transparency and were solely focused on giving their best in the qualifiers.

“They trust us, that we are not taking any money that belongs to them.”

Kenya’s national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers had also announced it was unable to travel to Brazil to prepare for the World Championships due to similar reasons.

The team, however, also managed to secure sponsorship from a gaming firm allowing it to make plans to travel.

Odera also lamented the decision by Rugby Africa to award France the right to host qualifiers at the expense of countries in the region.

Odera said the costs incurred by African teams in traveling to France would be “huge” at a time when countries are still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which wreaked havoc on the sport.

The Rugby Africa Cup 2022 will kick off in July and be held in a knockout format which will see eight teams compete for a place in the final with the winner qualifying for the World Cup.

The runner-up in the tournament will advance to the Repechage tournament, which offers one final attempt to qualify for World Cup.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)