Mbagwu Opens New Vista for Home-based Rugby Players

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Duro Ikhazuagbe

Newly elected President of Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), Kenechukwu Mbagwu, has opened new vista for home-based rugby players in the country. Henceforth, there will be no more preference for foreign-based players in the selection of players to represent the country at major tournaments.

Speaking at a media parley in Lagos on Tuesday morning, Mbagwu said that under the new administration both foreign and home-based players are going to be called to camp to fight for shirts in the senior national rugby team.
“I don’t believe that foreign-base players are better than their colleagues based here at home. We will henceforth invite players to camp and select the best among them to wear the national colours,” stressed Mbagwu who is also the MD/CEO of CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Co Limited.

While alluding to what happened in soccer during the Clemens Westerhof era, the NRFF president insisted that with good rugby league spread out across the country, “Many talented players are going to be discovered. Opening up the country to rugby leagues in the North East for instance will show what players from that region are capable of doing. Part of my vision is to spread rugby in the North, especially in the North Eastern states like Borno and others which will help spread the gospel of peace in the region. My board would work closely with state governments to achieve this.”

He also revealed plans to ensure that the Northern and South West leagues continued to grow, adding that the South-east and South-south would be given adequate support to improve their standards.

Mbagwu harped on developing the game at the grassroots, starting with the schools. “If we can introduce the sport to four schools in Borno for instance, we would have set up a system that will grow the game in the state. “The school rugby programme is a very important aspect of the development of the game and we will work closely with I-Try, if they agree to work with us, to develop a more encompassing model.

“We want to see students taking to rugby as the game of choice while in JSS so that when they get to SSS they would have been in the game so much that they will be in the school team. That culture will be sustained when they leave school. It is better that way than introducing them to the sport after leaving college,” revealed the NRFF boss who has been the major financier of the sport in the country in the last decade.

Mbagwu also promised to work with all stakeholders in rugby now that elections are over. “There is no point is dwelling in the past. We are reaching out to all aggrieved parties involved in the elections.”
As a top corporate player in the country’s economy, the NRFF president promised to make transparency the benchmark of his administration of rugby in the country.

“Accountability is one of the biggest concerns we have had in recent time. There is not so much money out there for us to go and get just like that. There are so many causes and only those with the right attitude and structure can assess it.

“Already, we have an accountant that takes care of our money, but we have the power to appoint a chief financial officer, who will take care of the finances. So, it is not the President’s job to handle the money of the federation,” Mbagwu pledged.

He promised to get the suspension clamped on Nigeria lifted and join the fray in hosting continental competitions. “Talks are underway to resolve existing issues with Rugby Africa. We have no fear over that because the issues that led to Nigeria’s suspension have been taken care of with the election of a new board for the federation.