The President, Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), Kelechukwu Mbagwu, said on Monday that the sport would continue to grow in the country.
Mbagwu, who expressed the optimism at the closing ceremony of the President Cup in Lagos, noted that rugby would take a centre stage as peoples’ choice in few years to come.
The final match played at the Main bowl of the National Stadium, Surulere, saw Barewa Rugby Club of Kano beat Cowrie Rugby Club of Lagos 13-5, to retain the trophy.
According to the NRFF chief, the well-prepared team won the tournament, adding that the federation would be better prepared for future championships.
“I will say that the federation is making progress for many reasons; 24 rugby clubs took part in the championship. That may not look much to the South Africans.
“To us in Nigeria, that is the highest we’ve ever been, twenty four rugby clubs across the nation and for the first time, we have the South-South and South-East league being played.
“That means our rugby has started to materialise in areas where you have naturally big Nigerians. I’m sure that in next year’s final, we will have different clubs playing,” he said.
Mbagwu lauded the efforts of the teams from the North toward the development of the sport in the country.
“It was a great game of rugby; I must say the better and more prepared side won, and it is good for the sport to see that the North is starting to take control once again.
“When I was very young, and just growing in rugby, the Northern League was the first to run in Nigeria.
“So, they are the oldest league and they are showing that they haven’t collapsed with age. They are still strong, and it showed in the game that was played today,” he said.
The National Team Captain, who also plays for Cowrie, Azeez Ladipo, blamed lack of adequate preparations for the loss suffered in the hands of Barewa.
“I think it has to do with our preparations; we did all we could but the guys are already winding down for the year, and most of them are not around.
“We just had to gather the players around for this game. That is not an excuse though; we just lost to a better-prepared team,” Ladipo said.
Another player, Nuhu Ibrahim, attributed hard work and dedication for the team’s success.
“What makes my team special is because we train five days a week, and we always follow the rules and regulations of the game.
“Our club is supporting us, and we always practice and respect the coach and officials; that is why we are moving forward all the time.
“Rugby is growing in Nigeria; we are urging other corporate organisations to support the sport. Our president is trying all his best to ensure that the game develops, but he cannot do it alone,” he said. (NAN)