RUGBY: Nigeria, Ghana Launch Bi-Lateral Tourney

President of Ghana Rugby Football Union (Ghana Rugby) Mr. Herbert Mensah and his Nigerian counterpart Mr. Kelechi Mbagwu have announced the birth of a new annual competition to be played between the two nations on a home-and-away basis.

The new competition known as The President’s Cup will kick off this year with the first leg scheduled for the 27th of April in Accra while the return leg will be played on the 4th of May in Lagos. The teams for both legs of the tournament will be known as the Presidents XV.

According to both rugby chiefs, the inaugural edition of the President’s Cup will also form part of the preparations for both nations ahead of the 2019 Rugby Africa Silver Cup. Nigeria has been chosen to host Pool A of Rugby Africa’s second tier tournament which will run from 6th to  17th June 2019 at the Lagos Polo Club.

Speaking on the new development, Mensah said a “decision in principle” had been reached between himself and his Nigerian counterpart Kelechi Mbagwu in Marrakech, during the 13th General Assembly of Rugby Africa to use the newly formed President’s Cup to shore up a lack of competitive rugby events in addition to being a means of fostering possible wider international cooperation.

Mensah said: “Everybody knows that the tournament structure of Rugby Africa falls short to give Rugby nations in Africa enough match exposure to breed the next Rugby World Cup participants besides South Africa and Namibia. Even Rugby Africa has asked members to seriously look at [organising] friendly international between regional states.”

On his part, President of Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) Kelechi Mbagwu said the newly formed competition is another shot in the arm of the fierce but friendly sporting rivalry that has always existed between Nigeria and Ghana.

“Our rivalry has been the very best of rivalries; the rivalry between siblings,” he said. “I remember those epic Nigeria/Ghana soccer matches-: the Green Eagles against the Black Stars and the Nigeria/Ghana sports festival when Modupe Oshikoya ran against Alice Annan. Those are the thrilling images I see when I think of this new Nigeria/Ghana tussle.

“Ghana have set themselves an extremely high bar with their dynamic and vital President leading the way but when we get on the field it will be a different story. Long live the Nigeria/Ghana detente.”

Rugby Africa’s Development Manager for West Africa, Mr. Charles Yapo,  praised the initiative as worthy of emulation.

“It is also an opportunity to encourage other rugby nations to follow in the footsteps of Ghana and Nigeria and for the 2019 season, Rugby Africa encourages and supports this kind of initiative,” Yapo said.