Oundle Rugby star's pride at being selected for Ghana in African Games

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Joe Sagoe was first capped for his country in Olympic pre-qualifying

The men’s Six Nations maybe over for another year, but that is not the end of international rugby for the spring, as one Oundle rugby star is preparing to represent his country in a huge multi-sport event.

Ghana may not be the biggest draw in international rugby – but Joe Sagoe will pull on the jersey with pride today (Tuesday) as he represents the nation in the Rugby 7s tournament in Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

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Joe qualifies to play for Ghana through his father – former Bath and Newport star Fred Sagoe – who was born in the African country.

Joe Sagoe will represent Ghana this weekJoe Sagoe will represent Ghana this week
Joe Sagoe will represent Ghana this week

So now the 31-year-old has swapped Oundle’s Occupation Road for University of Ghana Rugby Park, as he bids to help his team claim a medal.

Joe received his first international call up last year – originally thinking someone was playing a prank on him.

He said: “My dad was born in Ghana, and my brother and I grew up there.

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"But I didn’t associate Ghana with rugby. You have the top tier of African rugby – (World Champions) South Africa, Namibia and Kenya, and then you have the second tier there, and Ghana were one of the top second tier teams.

Joe's father, Fred, played for Bath and NewportJoe's father, Fred, played for Bath and Newport
Joe's father, Fred, played for Bath and Newport

"I have a few friends from Ghana in London who were playing 7s, and I was sent a form from the association, asking how I qualified, what position I played, what team I played for.

"But then for several years, I did not hear anything from them.

"Last year I had a call from them, to say I was being called up for an Olympic pre-qualifier in Mauritius. I didn’t believe it at first – I thought someone was playing a joke on me.

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"But it was real, and I went out for a two week camp in South Africa, before the tournament itself. It was very surreal. There were players who had won the Currie Cup (a club competition in South Africa), people playing for clubs in the top two French divisions, and people kitted out in full kit from some of South Africa’s top clubs.

“Sadly we just missed out on qualifying for the next stage, but we are now looking at the African Games.”

What are the African Games?

The African Games started earlier this month, and will see a total of more than 2,500 athletes taking part in 23 sports, including football, athletics, judo and cricket and even arm wrestling.

There are 54 nations competing in the games.

This is the first year Rugby 7s is a part of the games.

Along with the 23 ‘main’ sports there are seven demonstration events, including esports and board game Scrabble.

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The event was due to be held last year, but was postponed due to a delay in finishing some of the venues

At the time of writing, Egypt have dominated the medal table so far in this year’s event, picking up 91 gold medals – Nigeria lie in second place with 27 medals, and Ghana are in 6th with nine golds.

Emotional moment representing dad’s home country in Ghana

Joe said it would be an emotional moment when he lines up on ‘home soil.’

He said: “It will be very special when I’m there, especially because it is in Ghana.

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"I’ve got a few shirts from when I have played for Ghana, but this one will go to my father.”

Joe lines up at full back or centre for Oundle when playing the 15-a-side game, but layers hooker or prop for his national side in the shorter format of the game.

He said: “We have some very good players at Oundle, and they have been really happy for me – there have been lots of questions as people don’t know much about Ghana rugby.

"I have played 7s before, so it is not completely new for me.

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"I work at Country Court Care in Peterborough as a customer relations manager, and they have been very helpful in getting me to go.”

Joe will play Benin today, Burkina Faso and Tunisia tomorrow, and Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

What is Rugby 7s?

While a ‘normal’ game of Rugby Union involves 15 players on each team, playing an 80 minute match, Rugby 7s differs in a few ways.

As the name suggests, each team plays with seven players, and games comprise of two seven minute halves.

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However, many of the rules of the actual game remain the same – including the pitch size.

The sport was included in the Olympics for the first time in 2016, and gave Fiji their first ever Olympic Gold Medal when they won the men’s tournament that year.

This year’s Olympics will include French star Antoine Dupont, one of the world’s best players in the 15-a-side game