Kenya national men’s Under 20 rugby team, Chipu, have a mountain to climb against Uruguay in their opening Pool ‘A’ match of the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Tuesday night.
The African champions are back on the global stage after a 10-year absence having finished fourth in the 2009 edition held in Nairobi; their only other appearance in this competition.
Paul Odera’s charges will be looking to upset the South Americans who boast huge experience in this annual second-tier world tournament.
Uruguay, champions in 2008, have featured nine times in this championship. They have also made one appearance in the top-tier event, World Rugby Under 20 Championship, in 2009.
Chipu was ruthless in qualification, humiliating Tunisia 73-0 on April 4 in the Barthes Trophy semi-final, before stunning heavyweights Namibia 21-18 in the final at the KCB Sports Club in Ruaraka in Nairobi on April 7.
But it will be a different test for the African kings since all their Pool “A” opponents are ranked above them in the 15-a-side world rankings for seniors.
Japan is ranked 11th globally, while Uruguay and Brazil are in position 19 and 26 respectively. Kenya is 32nd, meaning they have to dig deep for a win.
Chipu's preparations further complicates their chances. Not only did they miss out on two expert coaches from South Africa due to the short notice given to them to come to Nairobi, but also their training camp in South Africa where they had lined up friendly matches failed to materialise because of insufficient funds.
Instead, Odera and his boys played a Prescott Cup schools-select side and two friendlies against Kenya Simbas trialists.
Despite the financial challenges, Odera is optimistic of finishing in a respectable position in the eight-nation tourney.
“It will be tough, a very difficult tournament. We cannot talk about winning all the three matches in our group, but we will not embarrass Africa,” offered Odera while naming his final squad in Nairobi a fortnight ago.
Tonga, Portugal, Canada and Hong Kong are in Pool “B”. The winner of this tournament will replace relegated Scotland in the 2020 edition of the World Rugby Under 20 Championship.