New Zealand’s Ian Snook was unveiled as the new Kenya rugby coach on Thursday and was immediately tasked with qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Japan.
The appointment marks Snook’s first foray into coaching a national side following decades of high profile experience with club teams in Europe, Asia, South Africa and his native country.
With the African World Cup qualifiers set to begin in just two months time Snook, 67, has his work cut out for him.
“We are here with the intention of qualifying Kenya to the World Cup for the first time. Obviously there is a lot of hard work to go before we play in the qualifiers,” said Snook, 67, who will be assisted by fellow countryman Murray Roulston, as deputy coach.
“It is up to us to do the right things over the short period of time to get the most out of it, and I am confident that working slowly that is what will happen.”
“We have listed up the areas we need to get better – line-outs, scrums, tackling, rucking. I think we can improve at all these,” said Snook.
“But we see a group of very athletic, powerful people, and we want to bring that into the game. We are not going to be playing and running into people all the time, but we will be running the spaces, and trying to get behind them. That’s going to be the theory behind what we will doing, and we better do it quick.”
The Kenyan team, popularly known as the Simbas (Lions) was only a point short of qualifying for the last Rugby World Cup in England in 2015.
A loss to Zimbabwe on match day three in Madagascar resulted in a third-place finish on points difference with Zimbabwe and Namibia, which earned the lone qualifying spot.
Kenya begins the six-nation African qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup in Morocco on June 23, before hosting Zimbabwe a week later in Nairobi. The other competing nations are Namibia, Tunisia and Uganda.
The tournament winner will automatically qualify for the World Cup in Japan, while the second-placed team will be entered in a runners-up tournament that will involve a team each from America, Asia and Europe for a second chance to qualify.