Rugby in the Cayman Islands generates a tremendous amount of respect in the region because of the strength of its junior programme.
Cayman’s Under-19s won the Caribbean Championship for the fifth time in six years on Saturday, annihilating the usually hard to beat Mexico, 42-17.
Many graduates from previous U-19 teams have progressed to the senior national squad and these youngsters are already pushing for places alongside the adults.
This is a pleasing situation for Cayman’s director of rugby, Richard “Grizz” Adams who was in Port of Spain, Trinidad marvelling at the latest triumph.
Adams now concentrates on getting the national sevens team in optimum shape for the North American and Caribbean Rugby Championships, to be played at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on 9 and 10 November.
The games will offer a qualification process for the Commonwealth Games and World Sevens Series tournaments next year.
The opportunity for Cayman to play at that elevated level is a hedonistic thought considering how small the pool is to draw from.
Nevertheless, Adams and rugby president Derek Haines believe it is a realistic ambition and have spared no expense to provide the players with the necessary resources through sponsorship.
Morgan Williams, a former top professional player, national sevens coach and captain of the Canada team, is working intermittently with the Cayman team.
So, too, is Canadian Dan Baugh and the Cayman Rugby Football Union’s new strength and conditioning coach, David Clancy, an Irishman who has extensive knowledge of sevens in Samoa and the 15s game in Ireland.
Adams feels the success of the U-19s will boost the morale of the sevens squad and also create more competition for places.
“Not only has it boosted their spirits, some of the U-19 players will be joining the squad on their return to Cayman which is great for the programme,” Adams said.
Three candidates for final squad places are Jon Murphy, Chris Palmer and Cueme Parker, who are regularly training at the club ground in South Sound.
“There is a very good chance that Murphy and Palmer will be in the squad, but Cueme has some work issues that may keep him out,” he said.
Adams is pleased with the impact Baugh and Williams made in their brief spell here last month. They will be back at regular intervals as the tournament approaches.
“Dan and Morgan are both world class coaches and they are excited too that the programme has improved so much since their visits a year ago,” said Adams.
“They noticed that the players have improved so much and are so positive and think we are on the right track to become a very strong sevens team within the region.
“David is doing a remarkable job with the players so far. It is probably a little early to tell as it has only been two weeks since he arrived but the players are now training properly and frequently.”
Players studying overseas are training here for the summer vacation. “Some of the overseas guys are back but we will still have Michael Wilson in Canada, the Clark brothers, Joel and Josh, in England, Justin Wight in the USA and Morgan and Will Hayward in Wales.”
Training is tough with gruelling morning and afternoon sessions three times a week.
“We have been invited to participate in the Serevi Invitational International Sevens in Colorado next month and will be having a week long camp before the tournament there.”