Seven-a-side rugby, the sport’s most exciting format, will entertain fans this weekend and possibly see the Cayman Islands booking themselves for future big tournaments, including the next Commonwealth Games.
The SteppingStones North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Rugby Sevens tournament is at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Nov. 9-10.
Twelve countries will battle it out in the hopes of reaching the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow, CACSO games in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and the HSBC World Sevens Series Hong Kong in 2014.
Canada and the United States are sending their Olympic development teams for both the men and women.
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.
The teams are split into three 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 Maple Leafs, Bahamas, Barbados and Turks and Caicos
Pool B – USA Falcons, Trinidad and Tobago, Cayman Islands and Curacao Pool C – Mexico, Jamaica, Bermuda and British Virgin Islands
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 or Jamaica are expected to top Pool C.
Cayman hopes to finish second in Pool B and progress to the Cup round on Sunday, where they will probably face Jamaica or Mexico in the quarter-final.
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 www.caymanrugby.com 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 throughout the two days to those in the best costumes.
Cayman Rugby Union technical director Richard “Grizz” Adams is delighted with the way it is coming together.
Adams is pleased that Cayman’s preparations for the tournament have drawn lots of new local women 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.
The Cayman 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 is back for a week-long camp.
Cayman play the Americans first, then Trinidad and Tobago before facing Curacao in front of a large crowd.
Tickets have sold well and if Cayman have a good first day, Adams expects a great turn out on Sunday. “If we’re in with a shout, I think people will come out on Sunday,” he said. “I think it is just the case now of getting the right balance with the guys on the field so that they’re playing together as a team. That is the challenge. “We’ve now got 19 very high quality players who are very fit and strong. Individually they’re very good. In ones and twos they’re okay but getting the right subs on at the right time is going to be the challenge.
“Hopefully, we’ll get that all ironed out by Saturday but I think we’re exactly where we want to be at this point.”
“I’ve never seen Curacao play and know nothing about them but expect they will bring some good athletes. They’ve got good coaching down there so I expect quite a lot out of them.
“The Trinidadians, again, we have no idea about them. They came with a really young squad last year and did okay, not as well as they might have hoped. I don’t know if they will go with experience and youth this time.
“The USA will send their Olympic development side so it’s good to play these sides. It will be a good measuring stick for us.
“Hopefully, it will be a good wake up call for the guys and the games should get easier from there on end, so it’s a nice way to get into it rather than be starting easier and getting harder and harder.”
SQUAD: Mark Soto, Richard Lewis, Josh Clark, Joel Clark, Chris Palmer, Chris Kennedy, Adam Keenan, Kramer Bell, Paul Westin, Ed Westin, Morgan Hayward, Garrett Conolly, Robbie Cribb, Jonathan Murphy, Alex Harvey, Alex Pineau, Cueme Parker, Venasio Tokatokavanua, Mike Sumares.