The Nigeria national rugby team, Black Stallions, made up of 24 players and four officials, arrived in Ghana yesterday to begin their campaign in the West Africa regional series Rugby championship slated to begin today in Elmina City.
The championship, billed to end on August 3, will feature hosts, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Speaking with The Guardian on arrival in Ghana yesterday, captain of the Nigeria national rugby team, Onoro-Oyiza Jatto said the Black Stallions were tuned to win the inaugural championship, noting that the players were in high spirit and would work hard to win their two games to emerge champions of West Africa.
“The Nigeria rugby 15s team have been intensifying preparation for the championship. The tournament is important for the players because it would improve our rankings in Africa.
The Black Stallions are gunning for two trophies in Ghana. If Nigeria beat Ghana, we get the President’s Cup and winning the two games in the tournament makes us West African champions,” he said.
Speaking before the team departed Nigeria yesterday, president of the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), Kelechkwu Mbagwu charged the players to be good ambassadors of the country while in Ghana.
He urged the players to win the championship to boost Nigeria’s pedigree in rugby.
“The players have been given the best assistance to excel in the championship. Gone are the days when rugby players that played for the country were not well documented. We are setting this standard as part of the encouragement for the players to give their best in national assignments.
“Winning the President’s Cup and the West Africa championship would boost Nigerian rugby’s position in Africa and at the global level. I am confident that the team will make Nigerians happy,” he said.
Three foreign-based players are in the Nigerian rugby team, which will play their first match on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire defeated hosts, Ghana 22-12 in the opening game of the series yesterday afternoon.