Nigeria Rugby coach Lewis eyes more home-based players in national team

Steve Lewis appointed as Nigeria Rugby head coach

Nigeria Rugby Coach Steve Lewis is hoping to add more local-based players in the national team in the near future as they prepare for the 2024 Olympic pre-qualifying tournament in Mauritius this weekend.

The Black Stallions are currently holding a training camp in London with the squad filled mostly with players based in the United Kingdom. Only two players are based in Nigeria while nine are based in the UK and United States.

Two home-based players: Jatto Onoru-Oyiza of Cowrie RFC and Etim Gabriel John of  Barewa RFC, Kano are expected to join the team today after arriving from Nigeria with Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) General Manager Azeez Ladipo.

Lewis stated that training abroad is the best option for now as Nigeria is just returning to competitive action after getting suspended by World Rugby during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic due to political interference within the NRFF.

The Scotsman however wants training camps to happen in some of the major Nigerian cities.

“Domestic Rugby in Nigeria, there hasn’t been much so it’s unfair on those guys that they haven’t had a lot of opportunities,” Lewis said.

“So for now the balance of players are here which is why London makes sense.

“In future, I want the camp to be in Lagos or Kano or Abuja and we want more domestic players.”

Despite Nigeria’s lack of competitive action, Lewis believes the team can improve rapidly and be among the three teams that will qualify for the Africa Cup Sevens in Zimbabwe in September.

“This is Nigeria’s first step back into Nigerian competition so there’s a lot of responsibility on the shoulder of these guys,” Lewis continued.

“So what is realistic, what can we expect? We have had just three or four practices. As long as we are competitive on the first day, I’m pretty sure we can put in the improvement.

“I would like to think we would finish top three. 12 teams in the tournament, three move on. We need to be in the top three.”

Nigeria will face Ghana, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Pool A of the  Olympic pre-qualifiers.

Other countries taking part in the pre-qualifiers include Ivory Coast, Botswana, Cameroon, Algeria, Lesotho, Senegal, Egypt and hosts Mauritius.

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