One of the Cayman Islands’ top young rugby players got the chance to train with some of the world’s best coaches during a high-performance camp in New Zealand.
Alex Pineau was put through rigorous training from a team of top tacticians including current All Blacks coach Steve Hansen during an intensive three-week course.
The teenager, who has already represented the Cayman Islands internationally, was pitted against some of the best youngsters in New Zealand in a training schedule that included everything from “log running” to mental skills.
The course, run by the International Rugby Academy, is a professional development scheme which talented youngsters from around the world can apply to join.
Pineau, who was one of two foreign students at the course held at the Sport and Rugby institute in Palmerston in January and February, said it was a challenging and enlightening experience to play at the home of the world champions.
“The level of rugby played in New Zealand is a completely different grade to that played in Cayman,” he said. “Therefore, I needed to rise to the challenge.
“The skills and physicality of the New Zealand players is completely different,” Pineau added. “I needed to work especially hard in both aspects of my game.
“In the end, it was great to go to a country where rugby is the only thing that everyone talks about. I hope that there will be a point where the Cayman Islands can play on a stage as big as the World Cup.”
Pineau, who plays locally for Krys Global Buccaneers, said he believes the skills and habits he picked up on the course will help him achieve his dream of playing professionally.
“They have basically told me exactly what I need to do to become a professional player, which is my big long term goal,” he said.
The course, which featured pre-breakfast fitness sessions at 6.30am on some days, mixed hi-tech modern methodology with some old-fashioned hard work.
One training exercise, known as the log run, challenged the players, in teams of four, to carry a telephone pole and two tyres for five kilometres without stopping. At certain checkpoints the players had to do exercises with the equipment.
The course also included tactical sessions with experts such as Mike Cron, the All Blacks forwards coach, and work on specific skills with a variety of players and coaches. There were also matches against local teams.
Pineau added: “The schedule is meant to replicate the feel of a professional rugby player, so we have four to five training sessions a day working on different vital skills to the game.
“In between each training session, we had classroom sessions explaining what we did as well as other vital skills to our game.”
The course also included inspirational after-dinner speeches from the coaching team, which included several former All Blacks and Super Rugby coaches.