Ruggers going for early bird chances in Monaco

Alex Aturundia in flight. PHOTOS/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

The ladies will kick off the campaign at 2.12 pm against Jamaica before their male counterparts take on Canada at 3.48 pm.

Uganda’s hope for a team appearance at the Olympics after over 50 years rests on the national men's and women’s rugby sevens teams this weekend. Both teams are currently in Monaco, France for the World Rugby Sevens Repechage which also serves as the final qualification tournament for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The men’s and women’s tournaments that kick off on Friday and will run concurrently until Sunday. Each tournament had initially attracted twelve teams from the six continents but Papua New Guinea pulled out due to travel limitations.

With only one slot available for each category, the ultimate prize is reserved for the winner. Coaches Charles Onen and Tolbert Onyango know better that for their Lady Cranes Sevens and the Rugby Cranes to dream of the Olympics, they must start strong on Fridday in their opening group matches.

Lady Cranes 7s have developed so much over the past year. 

Coincidentally, both teams were placed in Group B with Lady Cranes facing Hong Kong, Paraguay and Jamaica. The men take on Canada, Great Britain and China.

The ladies will kick off the campaign at 2.12 pm against Jamaica before their male counterparts take on Canada at 3.48 pm.

“We wait and see how the first game against Canada [will go] on Friday because that’s the decider,” Onyango said ahead of their opener.

Onen echoed similar sentiments while emphasizing that, “One of the important lessons we picked from the Challenger Series is that the first game of the day sets the pace for the tournament, so we have to play it as a final.”

Philip Wokorach is elusive. 

The Rugby Cranes are yet to face their group trio this season but are wary of the experience that Great Britain and Canada borrow from the HSBC Sevens tour. South Africa and Spain are the other teams from the 2024 Sevens tour in contention.

The Lady Cranes will face some familiar opponents. Besides Jamaica, the team has tested the abilities of Hong Kong and Paraguay in the Challenger Series. 

Uganda overcame Hong Kong 22-17 in sudden death in the quarterfinals in Montevideo but then had a loss and a win against Paraguay in Poland last month.

Lady Cranes 7s (in red) will have nothing to lose in Monaco. 

Onyango has bolstered his squad with the return of experienced captain Ian Munyani Adrian Kasito, Philip Wokorach, Timothy Kisiga and Pius Ogena. Onen, on the other side, has maintained his core team and only recalled Sandra Lona Amoli who has just recovered from an injury.

Rugby Cranes squad: Ian Munyani (C), Alex Aturinda, Philip Wokorach, Pius Ogena, Timothy Mugisha, Allan Olango, Karim Arinaitwe, William Nkore, Roy Kizito, Adrian Kasito, Timothy Kisiga and Norbert Okeny.

Lady Cranes squad: Grace Nabbaggala, Peace Lekuru (C), Agnes Nakuya, Lydia Namabiro, Ayot Mary Gloria, Lona Sandra Amoli, Maimuna Nassozi, Unity Namulala, Getrude Kuteesa, Grace Auma, Sarah Kirabo, Ritta Naddunga.

Rugby Cranes group fixtures 

Today: Canada vs Uganda (3.28 pm)

Saturday: Great Britain vs. Uganda (12.52 pm)

Saturday: Uganda vs. China (5.28 pm)

Men groups

Group A: Chile, Tonga, South Africa, Mexico

Group B: Canada, Uganda, Great Britain, China

Group C: Hong Kong, Spain, Brazil

Lady Cranes group fixtures

Today: Uganda vs. Jamaica (2.12 pm)

Saturday: Uganda vs. Paraguay (11.12 pm)

Saturday: Uganda vs. Hong Kong (6.20 pm)

Ladies groups

Group A: Argentina, Kenya & Samoa

Group B: Hong Kong, Paraguay, Jamaica, Uganda

Group C: China, Czech, Mexico, Poland