The President, Nigeria Rugby Football Federation, Mr. Kelechi Mbagwu, has opened up on his plans of taking Nigeria rugby to the next level. In this exclusive interview with KENNEDY JAMES, he speaks on the success of the just concluded Independence Rugby Sevens in Lagos and the need for sponsors to identify with the sport. Excerpts:
How would you rate the standard of this year’s Independence Rugby Sevens?
The standard was very high when compared to last year’s, because of the quality of rugby teams that featured in the event. We had foreign clubs like defending champions Samurai Barracudas and Merlins RFC in attendance, and from the home front, we had national champions Cowrie RFC of Lagos, Racing RFC of Lagos, Barewa RFC of Kano, Delta Force of Asaba, Nassarawa RFC, Delta Dragons, Blue Wolf of Warri, Kwara RFC and Sabongari RFC to mention a few. And come to think of it, we had a better organisation this year compared to last year and some of our female rugby teams also featured in this year’s competition.
Can you throw more light on what your board did in terms of organisation, which stands out this year’s tourney, as compared to previous years?
We employed the services of top notch technocrats who helped in packaging the tourney. And the first step we took in this regard was to set up a disciplined planning committee who worked tirelessly in drawing the roadmap for this year’s Independence Rugby Sevens, so I’m not surprised by the quality of organisation.
What impact do you think the tourney will make on Nigeria’s national team, Black Stallions?
It will have a great impact! The tourney allowed our national team selectors or even the coaching crew to have a pool of players to select from the various rugby clubs that featured in the Independence Rugby Sevens. We need a rock-solid national team and our new board is committed to taking Nigerian rugby to the next level.
What’s Nigeria Rugby Football Federation’s plan for the development of women rugby in the country?
We have great plans to help in the development of women rugby in Nigeria and that is why we have started grassroots developmental programmes for them and more competitions too. You can also see that women were fully involved in this year’s Independence Rugby Sevens and even the Tournament Coordinator happened to be a woman from Zimbabwe.
Frankly, the NRFF is going to organise more than four tournaments, annually, for our ladies to help create awareness and raise the quality of women rugby in Nigeria.
Finally, what is the future of rugby in Nigeria like and can you share with us the problems faced by your new NRFF board in the staging of this year’s Independence Rugby Sevens?
I want to state without any fear of contradiction that the future of Nigerian rugby is bright and that is why we have taken the sport to many schools in the country. The reception we have had over the years is encouraging and, with the plans we have on the ground, in a few years from now, Nigeria will be a super power in world rugby.
On the problems we encountered in the staging of this year’s Independence Rugby Sevens, I want to say that we really need more sponsors to identify with the programme of the new board. Actually, we had some sponsors in the just concluded Independence Rugby Sevens, which Samurai Barracudas of Britain won, but we need more sponsors to key into our vision of taking Nigerian rugby to the next level.