Lads ruck and roll for Ottawa

The Cayman Islands will be chasing more rugby props in Canada.

Cayman’s national sevens team depart for Ottawa on 23 August to play in the International Rugby Board Rugby Sevens World Cup Qualifier on 25-26 August.

There are 11 international countries involved in the tournament with Cayman joining the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago and the US. All are competing for just two spots to advance to the World Cup to be held in Moscow, Russia in June 2013.

Director of Cayman Rugby Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams spoke about the management in place for the team.

“Steve Clark joined the programme as the skills coach in April and has made a massive difference to the base skill level of the players,” Adams said. “I was lucky enough to be able to convince Morgan Williams, a former professional player with Stade Francais, captain of Canada XV’s and VII’s and former Canadian National Sevens coach, to come to Cayman to deliver some sessions a couple of years ago and this has now led to Morgan travelling with the team throughout this year to the camps to coach.

“Morgan will also be the head coach of the team in Ottawa. It has meant that I have been able to focus on selection to try and ensure that we have the best possible 12 players in Ottawa.

“My job has been massively helped by Duane Magis and Chris Palmer, who have volunteered countless hours as managers for the sevens programmes and who both know the game and have excellent input for me. The management team is rounded out by Al Bartice, who recently returned from the Olympics and Doctor Sean Teeling, who has been head of medicine at the rugby union for some years now. It is this strong management team and sourcing of world class outside assistance that is making such a big difference with our sevens team.”

The international board also changed its qualification process in 2011 to reach the World Sevens Series. As Canada and the US are already both ‘core team members’ of the series, the highest placed team at the World Cup qualifiers outside of those two countries will qualify to travel to Honk Kong in March 2013 to compete for sevens series core team status for 2014.

It is with these lofty goals in the forefront of their minds that the Cayman squad has just completed three weeks of preparation camps and seven months of training as the Maples National Sevens Academy. From the Maples Academy, 12 players have been selected to represent Cayman at the championships and vie for one of two World Cup places as well as a coveted Hong Kong sevens spot.

In the recent Canadian training camp that was held in Calgary, Alberta and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, the team placed second in the Calgary Sevens, fifth in the Victoria Sevens, winning the bowl and fourth in the Vancouver Sevens, winning the bowl ahead of US and Canadian development squads.

Adams attributes the team’s performances to several key areas.

“Through Maples, the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, Queensgate Bank and Trust, the Cayman Rugby Union and the Cayman Islands Government, we were able to bring in the world’s leading coach for fitness and conditioning, Dan Baugh, a few months ago,” Adams said. “Dan spent a week working with Keswick Wright, our local rugby development officer and strength and conditioning sevens coach. Between them, they tested our guys, set programmes and delivered training sessions which Keswick has maintained and improved upon each week, allowing the guys to reach new levels of fitness.

“Dan also conducted sessions on ‘best practice’ training at the highest levels for the programme and this has meant a marked improvement in the way we deliver our sevens training programmes, especially with an emphasis of the team training for almost the entirety of the session at match intensity.”

For Ottawa, the final selection for the Cayman team is as follows: Robbie Cribb, Josh Clark, Jon Murphy, Edward Westin, Dow Travers, Phil Fourie, Venasio Tokatokavanua, Simon Crompton, Morgan Hayward, Mike Wilson, Joel Clark and Garrett Conolly.

Adams states those men have the ability to reach great heights in Canada.

“In 2011, for the first time, we beat teams like Jamaica, Bermuda, Trinidad and USA South and finished second in the region, losing the final to Guyana. It was an unprecedented achievement for a union that has never finished higher than seventh in the tournament. We were a little overwhelmed with our success last year in making the final and did not play well against Guyana, who have won six championships in a row and played in the World Sevens Series three times.

“Guyana went on to score four tries against us in the first half but we held them scoreless in the second half. This year, every game we have played in Canada would compare to playing Guyana and many would be at a higher level, so our confidence is good going into Ottawa. We are in a pool with Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago as well as Barbados.

“We know that all the teams will have worked really hard as this is a Rugby World Cup year. We have to do well in pool play on day one and finish either first or second in the pool. This will mean that we avoid either Canada or the US in the quarterfinals.

“This is very important on two counts. Firstly we want to make the semi-final, when we will face either Canada or the US for a chance to make the final and a place in the 2013 World Cup. If we lose, we go into the third place playoff, the winner of this game will advance to Hong Kong 2013.

“We have done a massive amount of work over the past seven years, to give Cayman a sevens team that can compete in the region. Making the World Cup or Hong Kong is going to take a massive effort but I really do think that this is the best team and group of players we have had to date and as long as they focus and perform they can go all the way this year. Time will tell.”

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