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Ghana looks to convert grassroots rugby into global success

FILE PHOTO: A rugby coach shows the african kids in Ghana how to stretch their quadricep

The president of the GRFU, Herbert Mensah, believes Ghana — a country better known for the exploits of its international footballers, the Black Stars — could become a new challenger.

He said his job often seemed to be “trying to do the impossible” but he wants the sport to be as inclusive and as accessible as possible.

One idea to increase participation is touch rugby on the streets, using the open drains on either side as natural touchlines.

“Gutter to gutter allows them to throw the ball and run in a straight line,” explained Mensah.

“If you don’t run in a straight line you end up in a gutter. Try to get fancy and you lacerate your face,” he says with a laugh.

– Climbing the rankings –

According to World Rugby, there were some 8.5 million registered and non-registered players in 121 countries across the world in 2016.

But over half of them were in just nine countries — the Six Nations of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy; South Africa; Australia; and New Zealand.

Ghana, which currently has only 13 clubs registered with the GRFU, wants 1,500 players and the game to be taught in 120 schools by 2020.

Yet, the country already has a national team — and even its own version of the haka, the traditional Maori war cry performed by New Zealand’s All Blacks before internationals.

The Ghana Eagles in October last year played in the Africa Cup Sevens Tournament held in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and placed a creditable ninth out of 10.

Just months after becoming a full member of World Rugby, it also won its group in the Rugby Africa regional challenge event — the lowest tier of the sport on the continent.

That has taken the country into the third tier Bronze Cup for the men’s 15s in May this year, while they will try to improve on last year’s Africa Cup performance in October.

Longer term, the plan is to target the Olympics and World Cup.

“In five or seven years, I think we will be one of the best sevens sides in the world,” Mensah predicted.

“Now we have got to get the new group of younger players coming through who are 10, 11, 12 now, who will have learnt how to play the game from a very young age.”

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