A lasting legacy from Kenyan experience
By Frankie Deges
The final whistle of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 that gave Romania a well-deserved win over USA in the Kenyan capital Nairobi marked the start of the new cycle that will lead into next year's edition of the Under 20 tournament.
Eight teams ended a two-week long tournament that made them, undoubtedly, much better rugby players. The standard of the Junior World Rugby Trophy grew considerably from its inaugural version in Santiago, Chile, a year ago, to this one in green Nairobi.
The memories that will accompany the 208 players as they return home will include rugby experiences they will be able to bank on in moments of need but, more importantly, the experience of giving their time for less fortunate Kenyans is something they will forever cherish.
Through the legacy programme in place, the International Rugby Board ensured every team visited local schools and townships spreading the rugby gospel. Some teams, like Chile and the USA, to mention two, grew so close to the children they visited that the local kids came to watch and support them throughout the tournament.
From a rugby perspective, the tournament also proved how the teams have taken to the task of developing individual players and teams with the improvement in standard clearly evident.
A lasting legacy
Mark Egan, the IRB's Head of Development and Performance, attended the final day of matches played at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa and Impala grounds.
"It was a fantastic tournament, extremely well organised and one which will leave a huge legacy for Kenyan rugby," said Egan. "The level of competition was very high.
"One of the strategic goals of this tournament is to provide a high level competition pathway for Under 20 players in our Member Unions."
The majority of the teams came to Nairobi through the IRB-funded regional competitions and the process to qualify for next year's Trophy starts soon with regional Under 19 tournaments.
"The end result was very pleasing," added Egan. "The Romanians have been working very well in their academy structures which they reorganised in the last few years. Likewise with USA who have placed a greater emphasis on youth development within their Union. It is no surprise that both teams ended in the final.
Colour and passion
"Having said that, it was extremely encouraging to see the Kenyan performance which reflects the depth of playing talent here in Kenya, boding well for the game in this country as they challenge for qualification Rugby World Cup 2015."
Referees also made big strides throughout the tournament with referee manager Bernd Gabbei revealing: "We worked a lot and I believe every referee learnt a lot being here and handling these hard encounters. For all of them, this was also a pathway to bigger honours."
There was also a Judicial Workshop held during the Junior World Rugby Trophy for regional representatives.
The colour and passion of this tournament, from the strength of the Romanian pack, the skills of the USA players, the passion of the Chileans, the ability of the Kenyans, the joy of running with the ball in hand of the Koreans and Papua New Guineans, the attitude of the Namibians, to the lessons learnt by the Cayman Islanders, this IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Kenya was a joy for spectators at the grounds and the hundreds of thousands who followed the games through the television coverage and the live streaming.