It’s about that time again. When the month of June sets in, it’s the International rugby season. Owing to heroics from the rugby cranes last year, we got to maintain Tier 1A status and that is again on the line, in another round of games, some of which will go a long way to determine participation in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Last year, Nato Simiyu, Darwin Mukidza and their Kenyan counterparts bit the lid off our international season and poured hot sauce into it with a 48-10 beating. The boys took this on positively and after a refreshing tour in South Africa under the watchful eye of Coach Duncan, went on to put up a spirited performance against Namibia (losing narrowly 40-31), winning away against Zimbabwe (34-27) in Bulawayo, and later losing again, at the hand of the indomitable Kenyan Simbas. Nonetheless, this was enough to ensure Tier 1A status.

Uganda currently ranks 4th in Africa, going against Kenya (3rd), Namibia(2nd), Tunisia(7th), Senegal(5th ) and Zimbabwe(6th) in this year’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup Tournament that runs from 24th June and stretches out to 5th August. The Cranes international calendar however kicks off quite earlier than 24th June, 10th June to be exact with an Elgon Cup clash against the Cup’s defending Champs, Kenya, in Kampala at legends Rugby grounds.

It has been a tumultuous process to get ready for the games with a number of players dropping out of the ranks and favor of trainers citing wrangles with deputy coach and Uganda rugby legend, Robert “Soggy” Seguya. Among those that have left the camp include Joseph Aredo, James Ijongat and Ramathan Govulle: all notable stars of the game. On the other side of the coin, Cyrus Wathum came around and decided to return to camp, providing competition for Alex Mubiru and Tamale. The camp boasts of players who have had international exposure owing to the stellar World Rugby Sevens series competitions late last year, and others playing with or against Kenyans in their local league.

Kenyans made a mockery of Uganda’s halfback pairing last year in Chris “Opa” Lubanga and Kevin Makmot but Coach Duncan is confident that has been solved already and is only waiting to reap good things. Despite rumors of retirement earlier on hovering over Michael “Gonya” Wokorach, he has been spotted upbeat and in training raring to go, alongside other old clansmen in Alex Mubiru and Asuman Mugerwa. The creative department has this year been bolstered by the additions of a fit Ivan Magomu, Aaron Ofoiwroth, Mulla, speedster Solomon Okia and the return of steamboat engine, Justin Kimono in the ranks. Justin Kimono almost called time on his rugby career after a double knee injury but since warriors don’t go down easy, his patience has been rewarded with a National call-up. This team has also seen the addition of Scott Oluoch and the return from injury of Betway Kobs skipper, Brian Asaba, means there is so much competition in the backrow with Asaba Brian, Scott Oluoch, Musajja Ronald, Marvin Odong, Mathias Ochwo, Muhigwa Cox wanting to start.

All the above are set to add to a crop of talents that is Phillip “Ojus” Wokorach, Brian “BOD” Odong, James Odong, Lawrence Sebuliba, Charles Uhuru. Uganda Sevens skipper, Eric Kasiita is set to miss out due to injury. Uganda will be looking to put a stop to the Kenyan bullying, a Namibian conquest, another Zimbabwean sweep, and a bath of fire for Senegal and Tunisia.

It is set to be an entertaining time for any lover of rugby. On 10th June at Legends, it will be all systems go.

UGANDA’S FIXTURES:

Uganda Vs Kenya (Elgon Cup) – 10th June 2017 in Kampala (Legends)

Kenya Vs Uganda (Gold Cup) – 24th June 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Senegal Vs Uganda (Gold Cup) – 1st July 2017 in Dakar, Senegal.

Uganda Vs Tunisia (Gold Cup) – 15th July 2017 in Kampala (Legends)

Uganda Vs Namibia (Gold Cup) – 22nd July 2017 in Kampala (Legends)

Uganda Vs Zimbabwe (Gold Cup) – 5th August 2017 in Kampala (Legends)

                Coach Duncan talks to the team during a training session. PHOTO BY EDDIE CHICCO

Coach Duncan has named his 23 man team to battle Kenya for the dormant Volcano this weekend at Legends Rugby Grounds:

Forwards: Asuman Mugerwa, Alex Mubiru, Brian Odong, Robert Aziku, Charles Uhuru, Brian Asaba, Scott Oluoch, Marvin Odong

Backs: Ivan Kirabo, Ivan Magomu, James Odong, Pius Ogena, Michael Wokorach, Lawrence Ssebuliba, Phillip Wokorach

Replacements: Cyrus Wathum, Collins Kimbowa, Adnan Mutebi, Byron Oketayot, Musa Muwonge, Aaron Ofoiwroth, Justin Kimono, Eric Mulla.

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