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Kenya in tough pool at Sydney 7s

Monday January 27 2020

Kenya’s Billy Odhiambo is tackled during their men's sevens rugby match against England on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on January 25, 2020. PHOTO | MICHAEL BRADLEY | AFP

Kenya’s Billy Odhiambo is tackled during their men's sevens rugby match against England on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on January 25, 2020. PHOTO | MICHAEL BRADLEY | AFP  

GEOFFREY ANENE
By GEOFFREY ANENE
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Kenya Sevens has been handed a tricky group at the Sydney Sevens due this weekend in Australia.

Shujaa are in Pool “A” alongside World Rugby Sevens Series leaders and defending champions New Zealand, five-time record holders Fiji as well as Wales.

Paul Feeney’s charges, who are expected in Sydney Monday evening from New Zealand where they upstaged another heavyweight South Africa on their way to 10th-place finish at Hamilton Sevens, have suffered four straight losses against the Kiwis. The last time these sides met was in April last year in Hong Kong where Shujaa was humiliated 36-0 at the group stages.

Things were also not rosy when Shujaa came face to face with New Zealand in Australia in 2013 as they got thrashed 31-0 at the group stage.

The last time Shujaa tasted victory against New Zealand was in Cup semi-final in Hong Kong in 2018 when they floored the 12-time world champions 21-12. The All Blacks Sevens have been in fine form this season.

After losing by 15-0 against South Africa in the Dubai Sevens final, they have gone on to bag the Cape Town Sevens and Hamilton Sevens titles.

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Shujaa will also head into the Fiji game as underdogs as they seek a first win against the islanders in six matches.

Feeney’s men have lost their last five matches against the seventh-ranked Fijians, including being beaten 24-5 the last time they met Sydney in January 2018 in the fifth-place semi-finals.

Kenya’s last victory against Fiji came in June 2018 when they ran out 22-19 winners in the season-ending leg in Paris with tries from Collins Injera, William Ambaka, Andrew Amonde and Erick Ombasa.

The trio of Injera, Ambaka and Amonde were instrumental in Kenya’s outing in Hamilton last weekend and will again be expected to step up when the 10-leg World Rugby Series enters the fourth round on Saturday.

The last two visits in Sydney have witnessed mixed results for Shujaa against Wales. Kenya, whose best finish in Australia was second position in 2009, defeated Wales 26-12 in 2018, but lost 19-14 in 2019.

Currently, Feeney’s charges occupy position 10 with 25 points in the 16-nation competition. Wales is at the bottom of the log, with four points.

Sydney Sevens Draw

Pool A - New Zealand, Kenya, Fiji and Wales;

Pool B - South Africa, France, Argentina and Samoa;

Pool C - Australia, USA, Scotland and Japan;

Pool D - England, Canada, Ireland and Spain.

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