Grizz glad Lizards were crushed

Cayman’s best rugby players are gearing up for the toughest test of their careers in a sevens tournament at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex next month.

The SteppingStones North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Rugby Sevens comes to Grand Cayman Nov. 9-10 for world class sevens action.

Fifteen countries will battle it out in the hopes of reaching the Commonwealth games in Glasgow, CACSO games in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and the HSBC World Sevens Series Hong Kong in 2014.

SteppingStones Recruitment has pledged their support as tournament sponsor. Milly Serpell said SteppingStones shares in the excitement building around the tournament.

“It will surely be an exciting weekend for all spectators here in Grand Cayman,” Serpell said.

“It is an opportunity to showcase our talent and make a splash on the rugby circuit. The SteppingStones NACRA Rugby Sevens tournament is a key stop for many international teams and we look forward to welcoming them to Cayman.”

Canada and the United States are sending their Olympic development teams for both the men and women, with the women’s team looking to use the tournament to improve the performances that saw Canada finish second in the Sevens World Cup and the U.S. third in Russia recently.

The men’s team will also be looking to improve their World Sevens Series standings and stay as core teams in 2013/14. Mexico and Jamaica return as last year’s first and second placed NACRA teams with Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, BVI, Curacao, Guyana, St. Vincent, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago and, of course, Cayman looking to upset last year’s champions.

The teams will be split into four pools for day 1 round-robin play, with the top two teams in each pool at the end of day 1 going into the Cup round and the bottom two teams going into the Plate round on day 2.

Pool A – Canada, Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos

Pool B – U.S., Barbados, Bermuda and BVI

Pool C – Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and Curacao

Pool D – Jamaica, Guyana and St Lucia

Canada and the U.S. are expected to top Pools A and B, respectively, at the end of the first day and based on last year’s form, Mexico and Jamaica expected to top Pools C and D.

Cayman will aim to finish second in Pool A and progress to the Cup round on Sunday, where they will likely face Jamaica or Guyana in the quarterfinal.

The process for teams to qualify for various events in 2014, based on results from the SteppingStones NACRA Rugby Seven’s tournament are quite different than previous years, as outlined:

The tournament will feature 12 hours of rugby sevens action each day, with refreshments available throughout the day. Tickets are $25 for the weekend, pre-booked through the Cayman Rugby website or from the Cayman Rugby Club office.

Corporate hospitality has been eagerly booked by several sponsors, including SteppingStones, LIME as a preferred sponsor, The Security Centre, CIOC and Chris Johnson Associates.

DJ XS will be providing music and entertainment along with game day commentator James Bebarfald.

Rugby sevens tournaments around the world have become festivals of sport, music, dancing and entertainment, with the spectators dressing up in fancy costume.

The SteppingStones NACRA Sevens will be no exception, falling on the first weekend of Pirates Week, and spectators are encouraged to dress appropriately. Spot prizes will be given out through the two days to those in the best costumes.

Some of the players likely to be on the Cayman team played against the New York-based Skippy Lizards a couple of weeks ago, winning easily 48-7 at the rugby club in South Sound.

One player in particularly fine form was Venasio Tokatokavanua, who hopes to make the sevens squad.

Baron Solomon scored two tries early on to set up the win, and there were good contributions too from Angel Hawkins and Jonny Hillyard, who had the Lizards spinning.

If not on the squad, they will all be cheering on Cayman at the sevens tournament.

Cayman Rugby Union CEO Richard “Grizz” Adams is delighted with the way it is coming together, both logistically and with Cayman’s preparations.

He said: “This is a big tournament for the Cayman Rugby Union as well as the Cayman Islands. “Rugby focus across North America, Mexico and the Caribbean will be turned here for 24 hours as we stream each game live through our site. We are expecting very large numbers of local support, but also online spectators, so it’s a great opportunity to market the islands and sport here in general.

“There will be strong representation from the International Rugby Board through Tom Jones, the regional general manager for the NACRA region, as he hosts several presidents of Olympic committees from around the region to show them firsthand what Rugby sevens is and how well Cayman can hosts events of this magnitude.”

Adams is pleased that Cayman’s preparations for the tournament have drawn lots of new local girls into the program, which bodes well for the future of the women’s game here. The women will play extremely tough competition, with Canada and U.S. ranked second and third in the world, respectively, and teams like Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana having strong programs.

Cayman will be aiming for a top six finish and the chance to qualify to play in Trinidad in December, as well as at the CASCO games in 2014 in Mexico.

The Cayman’s men’s team is looking stronger than ever. Sponsored this year by ESSO and with Dave Clancy having been employed through a Commonwealth Games grant to deliver strength and conditioning programs, the guys are in great shape.

Morgan Williams, the former Canadian Sevens and 15s captain, sevens coach and professional player in France and Wales, remains as the technical director of the sevens program and will be back in Cayman for a weeklong camp leading up to the tournament, as well as the tournament itself.

The SteppingStones North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Rugby Sevens come to Grand Cayman Nov. 9-10 for world class sevens action.