Cayman’s triumphant young rugby team is well rested and now gearing up for their next challenge after the Under-19s heroics in July.
The 2008 Cable & Wireless national sevens squad, for the NAWIRA regional Rugby World Cup Sevens qualifiers, to be held in the Bahamas from October 25-26 has been announced.
The squad is exceptionally young, has excellent skill, speed, agility, power as well as massive potential, but no match, let alone international experience, as a team.
Four of the 12 have played in past Caribbean sevens championships over the last three years and all have played in either the full 15 side World Cup qualifiers in Cayman last April, or the U-19 RWC qualifiers in Barbados and so have some international experience.
Currently ranked 11th in the Caribbean there is really nowhere but up to go for this young squad who are U-19 Caribbean champions.
The pools for the 2008 qualifier have not been drawn yet but top teams include world ranked Canada and the USA.
Mexico as well as Caribbean sevens powerhouses Jamaica and Guyana, who have won all of the Caribbean sevens between them for the past three years will also be looking for glory.
These five will start as firm favourites with the top two teams moving on to the RWC sevens finals in Dubai six months from now.
Other teams will include Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas, BVI, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago and Turks and Caicos rounding the teams out at 16.
Preparation, in terms of games for this new national squad began in earnest on Saturday and over the next six weeks during the Cable & Wireless summer sevens series, the squad will play at least 15 warm up matches, against three other good sevens squads that include the National Maples Sevens Academy.
The Maples Academy team will also play as many games and those players will be pushing hard for final places on the full squad should form or fitness be lacking in any of the senior squad selected.
Ama Tsotsi have won the series for the past two years and the team is comprised of South African players now residing in Cayman and the team offers excellent development opportunities for both the Cable & Wireless national squad and the Maples Academy.
The fourth team is O’Neills Wolfhounds in memory of Peter O’Neill. This team is made up from all of the other players in the rugby club at the premier level and again they will offer excellent competition.
Coach Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams has gone for 10 of his successful U-20 squad and two senior players making the average age only 19.
Adams expects the performances to be raw in their early matches. He said: ‘There are a lot of youngsters in this squad who will not have seen or expect the levels of competition that they will encounter in these warm up matches, the pace and skill is going to take some getting used to so I am sure we will have problems at the start.
‘We have been training well over the past weeks but there is a great difference between training and playing matches. We are aiming to maintain our shape and game plan and start to develop some defensive strategies that will suit these players.
‘We are under no illusions, this is a very young team and it is going to be up against good players in exceptional teams both on local soil and overseas come October competing for one of two places in the RWC finals.
‘Right now that goal is too far away even to contemplate. We need to prove that we can control the pace of a game, retain possession of the ball for long periods, move the opposition defences where we need them and create and finish scoring opportunities.
‘In defence we have to make our tackles and work together. How good we are at this will become evident tomorrow and over the next sevens weeks as we continue to play, train and develop as a team.’