By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's former rugby 15s captain Wilson Kopondo made his return to the national team ahead of the World Cup repechage in Marseille, France next month.
Kopondo, who last featured for the Kenyan team last year in the Cup of Nations at Kings Park Sports Ground in Hong Kong, has received the nod from head coach Ian Snook and will join the 30-member team for training.
Kenya lost to Namibia in the Africa qualifiers and has to go through the repechage, which brings together three other teams who lost out in continental qualifiers. Germany (Europe), Canada (America) and Hong Kong, China (Asia) will all take part in the tournament.
The winner of the four-team tournament, which will kick off in Marseille, France on Nov. 11, will earn the last ticket to play at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
"The team is strong and we need to start playing strongly against top teams," Snook said on Tuesday. "To get better and better we must test ourselves against the best and that should be the next step."
Snook also called in Kenya Sevens stars Collins Injera, Andrew Amonde, Samuel Oliech, Willy Ambaka and Nelson Oyoo to bolster his squad as he expected fast and quick games against the opponents in Marseille.
This is the first time the Kenyan sevens team players will play 15s rugby on the international stage since 2015.
A new addition to the team is Kenya's utility player William Reeve, who caught the head coach's eye on the local sevens circuit.
The team, which has been facing financial difficulty since moving to camp two weeks ago, will depart for Bucharest on Oct. 31 and play against Romania in a buildup match on Nov. 3.
"Our opponents in the Africa qualifiers for the World Cup capitalized on our mistakes to win. We did poorly in our line-outs and easily conceded turnovers in the ruck. These are areas we must improve to lock down the game," the coach added.
Kenya will kick off the repechage campaign on Nov. 11 against Canada, who has never missed a World Cup. Hong Kong, China will be their next opponent on Nov. 17.
The two sides met at the Cup of Nations last December in Hong Kong, with the hosts winning 40-30 en route to retaining the trophy.
Kenya's last match will be against Germany on Nov. 23. The two teams met last year in Nairobi with Kenya losing 30-29.