KRU set to sack Kenya Sevens coach

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RUGBY: KRU set to sack Kenya Sevens coach

Joel Omotto 12:00 - 26.07.2023

Damian McGrath will pay the price for Kenya’s poor season that saw them lose their 19-year core status

Kenya Rugby Union is set to part ways with Kenya Sevens coach Damian McGrath following a disappointing season that saw Shujaa relegated from the World Sevens Series.

McGrath was appointed Kenya Sevens coach in May 2022, replacing Innocent Simiyu just ahead of the 2022-23 season, but endured a torrid campaign that saw the team finish 13th on the log before losing to Canada in the relegation playoff final in London in May.

That defeat ended Kenya’s 19-year status as a core team and they will have to contend with a spell in the second-tier Challenger Series next season, with the earliest they can return to the World Series being 2025.

At the time, KRU chairman Sasha Mutai promised to make wholesale changes to ensure Kenya returns to where they belong and he has started with the head coach.

“We will change the coach, that one I can confirm,” Mutai told Pulse Sports on Wednesday, regarding McGrath’s position.

“We are assessing what we have in terms of sponsorship before we start tying up the contracts.”

In his only season in charge, the Englishman collected 40 points with Shujaa unable to make it to the Cup quarter’s in each of the 10 legs.

McGrath, who also led Shujaa to the 2022 World Cup Sevens as well as the Commonwealth Games, has over 30 years’ experience in coaching, having also handled England, Germany, Canada and Samoa but could not lead a relatively young Kenyan side to glory in 2022-23.

He was tasked with helping Kenya qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics but that job will now be handled by someone else with KRU exploring the possibility of handing the job to a local coach.

“We are looking at both a local and foreign coach. Experience matters a lot because this is a national team and we must get the best,” added Mutai.

Whoever is hired will start with the Africa Men’s Sevens slated for September 16 and 17 in Zimbabwe with the 12-team tournament also serving as the 2024 Olympics qualifiers where only one team will make it to Paris.

If Kenya fail to win the Africa Men’s Sevens tournament, they will hope to finish second or third to qualify for the 2024 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament while also making it to the 2024 Challenger Series.

Assuming that is secured, they will enter into the 12-team Challenger Series which is a two-weekend tournament involving teams from around the world, including the likes of Uruguay, and Japan who also missed out on promotion last season.

Following changes made by World Rugby, teams ranked ninth to 12th in the World Series after the first seven legs will join the top four teams from the Challenger Series in a high stakes relegation play-off competition in Madrid with the top four securing their place in the World Series.

The four unsuccessful teams from the relegation playoff will go into the regional competitions to qualify for the next Challenger Series, which comprises 12 men and 12 women’s teams, competing in the second level of international rugby sevens.

It, therefore, means that Kenya will need to finish in the top four in the 2024 Challenger Series to make it to the relegation playoff in Madrid and ensure they are among the four best teams again to regain their place in the World Series for the 2025 season.