From left, Cayman national team captain Chris Kennedy, coach Garry Southway, director of rugby Jovan Bowles and Shomari Scott of Health City take questions at Friday's press conference for Big Game 9 and Big Game 10. - Photo: Alvaro Serey

The first two tests of the season loom ahead for the Cayman national rugby team.

The men’s XVs team will play host to Bermuda in Big Game 9 on June 9 and Trinidad for Big Game 10 on June 23, with both games to be hosted at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex. The Cayman team is are hoping to continue their momentum from a successful season last year, in which they lost just one game.

Coach Garry Southway said Friday that it’s crucial to keep improving.

“This year, we want to improve on the success of last year,” said Southway. “One of the things we’ve struggled with is the number of games we can play. All of the players are self-funded when it comes to travel, so it can be very expensive to go away and play other teams. And because Cayman is quite an expensive place to live, it can be expensive for those teams to come here to play us as well.”

Cayman beat Mexico by 39-17 in last year’s Big Game 8, and captain Chris Kennedy said Friday that the team is primed for success this season after finishing the 2017 campaign on a high note.

“We’ll be confident playing Bermuda,” he said. “It’s always a bit of a grudge match playing them. Trinidad is a slightly unknown factor. We’ve come across them in the VIIs the last couple of years, but this is our first foray against them in the XVs in my experience. We think they’re going to be big and strong. It’s going to be pretty physical, but that’s what we look forward to. I think we’re all pretty excited.”

Cayman Rugby also has a game scheduled for July 9 in Atlanta against USA South, the only team it lost to last season. Coach Southway said there are 52 players that are qualified and able to play on the Cayman national team, and that the game-day roster of 23 players will be pared from an initial list of 30.

Southway also said that he has already decided on about 15 or 16 players, leaving just a few spots for the remaining players to win. The national team will play three games against a select team of local rugby players who are not eligible to compete for Cayman in the run-up to Big Game 9 and Big Game 10.

“We had a couple [of] words last year: Attitude and endeavor,” said Coach Southway. “Those were the words we wanted to talk about before every game. If you have those two things, then you can overcome. … We’ll take those words with us into this year, and the Cayman boys will definitely make us proud.”