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Ugandan Women’s Rugby Team Gears Up for Africa Sevens in Tunisia

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Ugandan Women's Rugby Team Gears Up for Africa Sevens in Tunisia
Lady Rugby Cranes 7s enter camp ahead of Africa Sevens
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Only six days remain until the 2023 Rugby Afrique Women’s Sevens tournament in Jemmal, Tunisia. This event marks the fifth time it has been held in the past decade, and it is scheduled to take place over two days, from October 14th to 15th.

Uganda has previously come close to winning the tournament, notably in 2008 when they lost to South Africa in the final with a score of 24-0. They managed to secure qualification for the Dubai World Cup the following year. In 2018, in Gaborone, Uganda lost to their rivals Kenya with a score of 27-7. In the previous year’s tournament in Jemmal, the Lady Cranes finished in fourth place after losing to the hosts Tunisia in the bronze final. Notably, this tournament also served as the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens.

This year, there’s even more at stake as the winner in Tunisia will earn a direct slot in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The team, led by head coach Charles Onen, has undergone rigorous training over the past five months, including both residential and non-residential programs.

Before their final residential camp in Entebbe, the 12-player team conducted their last training session in Kampala at Kyadondo Rugby Club. The team’s strength and conditioning coach, Kigongo Ssebalamu, evaluated their strength at 85%, with the remaining 15% being minor aspects that will be addressed in the final days of preparation.

Over the years, Uganda has faced challenges in the strength and conditioning department, hindering the nation from reaching its full potential on both the continental and world stages.

Coach Onen recently announced the final squad of 12 players, including two rookies, Grace Nabbagala from Lady Pacers and Sarah Kirabo from Avengers. The rest of the squad comprises Nakuya Agnes (Thunderbirds), Auma Grace (Black Pearls), Namabiiro Lydia (Black Pearls), Lekuru Peace (Avengers), Kirabo Sarah (Avengers), Najjuma Yvonne (Thunderbirds), Ayot Mary Gloria (Thunderbirds), Nassozi Maimunah (Avengers), Amoli Lona Sandra (Thunderbirds), Nadunga Rittah (Black Pearls), Nabaggala Grace (Lady Pacers), and Mufuwa Rachel (Black Pearls).

Veterans Asha Nakityo (Thunderbirds), Tina Akello (Nile Rapids), and Pauline Bankabwire from Nile Rapids were not included in the final squad.

Coach Onen explained that the selection of the team was based on their performance during the extensive training sessions conducted over the past six months.

In Tunisia, Uganda finds itself in Group A, considered the “group of death,” along with host Tunisia, defending champions South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Group B consists of Madagascar, Kenya, Zambia, and Ghana.