Cayman’s young rugby players will be flying the flag for this tiny country when they do battle in Kenya in the Under-20s World Cup tournament next week.
Cayman will easily be the smallest country at the tournament of 23 teams.
They leave for England this weekend and had a farewell reception on Saturday at the rugby club in South Sound.
Derek Haines is president of the Cayman Islands Rugby Union Federation. He said: ‘I don’t believe that Cayman will be the weakest at all. We’re a country of 55,000 people and sending a team to represent us in the top 23 in the world. I think that’s a fantastic achievement. Whatever the results, they’re still in the top 23.
‘As young men getting experience for the first time on the world stage is absolutely fantastic. My expectations of them is that they’ll continue to become good players as seniors.
‘Rugby also helps them become good citizens. What rugby does for you above anything is make you a good citizen because it teaches team work as well as individual skills.
‘You can feel the nervous tension here today and excitement just running through this room at the moment.
‘And remember this, 10 of them can still play again for Cayman in the Under-19s next year for the World Trophy. People will be shaking in their boots when they realise that.’
Josh Clarke is arguably the best Cayman youngster (see story opposite). He played for the senior West Indies side in the Hong Kong sevens last week.
‘Clarke is another product of our youth and academy programmes,’ said Haines. ‘When I look at how we’ve progressed since Hurricane Ivan four years ago, I’m amazed.’
Haines was pleased that Clarke scored a try against the US in Hong Kong. ‘We don’t even qualify as a village in the US and we got a try against them. How about that!’
Coach Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams said: ‘Of course, we’re going to go out there and do our best. We have the US in our first match. That’s going to dictate where we go from there.
‘On any given day we can always turn over a good team. We’ve played alongside them and know what they’re about and expect to be in the same ball park.
‘The three strongest teams appear to be Romania, Chile and the US. They’re expected to be in the semi-finals. We have Namibia and Kenya to play after the US.
‘The real goal at this level is to win a game. Jamaica went last year as our regional reps and didn’t manage to win a game. We’d like to do better.
‘We’re supposed to be the weakest side. The other teams have players in the millions, we can choose from only a pool of 35. But we’ve had a lot of advice and as a small island we can get together often and the guys overseas are all playing a good level of rugby.
‘Looking down the years, we’ve got youngsters coming through that will help keep us at this level for quite a while.’
So Cayman are fully prepared, having played against top American sides on a recent tournament in Fort Lauderdale.
Everyone’s had their jabs and the malaria tablets are packed. Now it’s just down to showing how good they really are.
Captain Daniel McGrath said: ‘We’re not really nervous, more excited really. This is at a stage that we’ve never been to before.
‘We’ve got a strong desire to do well. It’s the thought of going into something that we’re not used to that excites us. Most of us have never been to Africa before.
‘We’re always going to be underdogs, that’s how we play. We’ll be showing the Caymanian pride and hope to turn some heads by showing that Cayman is a force to be reckoned with.’