The Cayman National Rugby squad departed on Monday for Glendale, Colorado for an intense training camp before competing in a huge tournament this weekend.
They will be trained by former coach of the Canadian national side Morgan Williams, Cayman’s director of rugby Richard “Grizz” Adams and Dave Clancy, the specialist strength and conditioning coach that the Cayman Rugby Union has employed to work with the sevens players leading into a big tournament in Grand Cayman in November.
The Serevi International tournament on Saturday and Sunday is strictly invitational so Cayman were delighted to receive an invitation. Cayman are in a pool with France, Mexico and the Tiger Cubs.
The 12-team tournament will feature the USA Olympic team and the USA’s top sevens players, as well some of the world’s best, and will form a major part of the team’s development building.
The other teams are Falcons, Serevi select, Northeast, Royal Air Force, All Americans, Raptors, El Azul, Bermuda, USA Marines, USA Air Force, US Navy and USA Coast Guard.
Cayman has been under the direction of Clancy for the past six weeks as part of Cayman rugby’s High Performance plans aimed towards the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
Clancy’s services have been provided through a Commonwealth Games Federation grant leading up to the North America Caribbean Rugby Association championships to be held at Truman Bodden Sports Complex on 9-10 November.
Clancy said: “This tournament offers an extremely high performance environment at Infinity Park in Glendale, which is a purpose built rugby facility. Our team is very new and for the guys going, it will be a massive experience and eye opener, but we have to attend these levels of tournament if we are to break into the world scene of sevens ion the next year or so.
“I fully expect the rugby to be fast and hard and I expect us to be able to deal with it.”
The squad is: Mark Soto, Edward Westin, Paul Westin, Jonathan Murphy, Richard Lewis, Chris Kennedy, Josh Brown, Chris Palmer, Alex Harvey, Mike Wilson, Andrew Ibeh and Phil Fourie.
Adams is pleased with what he has seen so far. “Bringing Dave in has been massive for this programme, the union and our aspirations of lifting the trophy not just in November but for years to come,” he said.
“The players are realising for the first time in their careers what it means to prepare properly and be fit, strong powerful and quick,” said Adams. “It is not easy and the squad are putting in countless hours in their preparation, which I am delighted to see. It is giving our programmes the High Performance touch that we have needed.
“Dave is also working with the men’s XVs the Under-19 and High Performance development programmes of the U-16 and U-14 starting in September as we identify players capable of reaching the next two Olympics and all of the Games and tournaments along the way.”
He added that the squad was fortunate to also have Williams’s services, as he is a former professional XVs and VIIs player and former captain and coach of Canada sevens, and medical support from Dr. Sean Teeling and physiotherapist Al Bartice.
Adams said the “high performance umbrella” the squad started to roll out last year is now fully planned for the next four years and “while I am still working to finance it all, it is aimed at lifting us out of the region and into world competitions”.
“The time I have spent in other very successful small union nations such as Wales and Scotland have simply confirmed that in many ways we have both the athletes and potential to mirror their remarkable achievements right here as long as we provide high performance learning environments for our athletes and we continue to invest heavily in our youth development programmes,” said Adams.
He continued, “When the membership wrote the Strategic Development Plan in 2007, the ultimate goal for 2020 was to be third in the region only behind Canada and the USA above us. Well, our U-19s have been third for the past five out of six years, our men finished fourth this year due to a silly penalty that cost us the game against USA South and we fully intend to be at least third in the November championships, so we are well on our way to meeting the 2020 goal.”
He and his team are also launching a women’s recruitment and coaching programme aimed at the next two Olympic Games.
“With Canada and the USA both in our region and expected to pre-qualify for the next two Olympics, there is a real chance of the next best women’s team from this region making Rio de Janeiro in 2016. We need to recruit and train these girls now if we are to have any chance at filling this spot in the Olympic roster. The first introductory camp will be on 1 September at the Rugby Grounds in South Sound at 3pm and no experience whatsoever is necessary,” said Adams.
A Cayman Islands Exiles Sevens team is being planned for next year to participate in 12 UK-based sevens tournaments. The team will be made up of Caymanians, living, playing or studying in the UK.
“The number is fast approaching 20 players under the age of 24,” said Adams, “so this is a cheap and great way to keep them playing together in a superb rugby environment.”