Jamaica preparing for the dream debut

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 11 March 2008
By Karen Bond
 Jamaica preparing for the dream debut
Jamaica are the first Caribbean team to qualify for an IRB age grade tournament - Photo: Jamaica Rugby Union

We continue our build up to the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy by turning our focus to Jamaica and their Under 20 coaches Jason Campbell and Victor Hyde.

Jamaica have already created their piece of history simply by qualifying for the inaugural IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, but that doesn’t mean that the Caribbean nation are content to simply make up the numbers in Chile next month.

Far from it in fact with their Under 20 coaches and players all expressing the same target for Jamaica’s debut in an IRB international 15-a-side tournament, one that would certainly give rugby in the Caribbean a tremendous boost if they can realise their dream.

“We are hoping to display our skills, hoping that we reach as far as the final because we know our guys have the potential to reach that far, they are good players, they have so much talent,” insisted one half of Jamaica’s Under 20 coaching team Jason Campbell.

“I really hope that we reach the final. These players are so skilful; I don’t think the right people have seen them. Personally as a coach I would like the best for my players and I would hope that their career and something positive comes out of the World Trophy.”

This sentiment is echoed by his fellow coach Victor Hyde with the pair having been leaving no stone unturned in their preparations for the Junior World Trophy since their dramatic qualification was secured in the Cayman Islands last July.

Laying foundations for a brighter future

“It is possible so we are aiming for the final, most definitely. When we do reach the final I think a lot of doors will be opened for our players locally because most of these players come from the inner cities and their aim in life is to become professional rugby players.

“They are looking forward to this tournament so that they can market themselves in the best way possible and it will open a lot of doors, not only for themselves, but also for Jamaica and the Caribbean because everyone will be very proud.

“All the support that we are getting from our families and local sponsors we definitely think will see things go forward, not just for the players but for the whole development of the sport in the region.”

The positives of Jamaica’s qualification, which was secured with a 4-1 penalty shootout victory over Guyana after the NAWIRA [North America West Indies Rugby Association] Under 19 Championship final ended 14-14, is already being felt with more youngsters starting to play the sport.

However it isn’t only the playing numbers that are growing, but also the desire of Jamaica’s other national teams to follow in the Under 20’s footsteps and qualify for a major tournament such as the RWC Sevens 2009 in Dubai.

Anything is possible with hard work

“To tell you the truth come October our men’s and women’s teams will be in the RWC Sevens qualifier and both teams are looking forward to qualifying for that tournament in Dubai because of what the Under 19s/Under 20s have done,” admitted Hyde, who also coaches the Jamaica women’s team.

“They have seen that they can do it, so now say that we can definitely do it as well and it will just take hard work and dedication and commitment to the game to reach that level. We will be a force to be reckoned with God willing.”

Hard work is something that Campbell, Hyde and their players have not shied away from since Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to qualify for an IRB age grade tournament, the philosophy being to prepare for every possible eventuality.

“The hard work we have put in with the team over the years got us to the final and after we had qualified we knew that the real work started,” explained Campbell, who like Hyde is a Regional Development Officer in Jamaica. “We have had the guys in for intensive training.

“Most of our training is conducted in the mountains because Chile is a high place and we have been training our guys in the mountains to get them acclimatised and used to the climate before we go down to Chile.

“The training here is coming on fine, the guys are well-groomed. We have them in regular camps so they can focus only on rugby and there is great expectations for these guys coming into the World Trophy. We are doing as much as we can to prepare these guys for the competition.”

Homework to ensure no walkovers

Hyde added: “They are taking their training very seriously and we are working on every aspect of the game, talking about scrummaging, lineout, rucks, mauls, getting the high ball, drop kick, all different types of kicks, tackles.

“We are teaching them the entire laws of the game, going through not just physical fitness and endurance but the whole works. We are looking forward to a great tournament in Chile and we know that we are not going to be a walkover.”

Campbell and Hyde are also spending time learning as much as they can about their Pool B opponents at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy with Jamaica never having come across Georgia, Uruguay or Korea before.

“We have never played them before, we have only seen a team play in the Rugby World Cup. We have never actually seen them, but we are trying to get clipping and see how they play their rugby,” explained Hyde. “We want to ensure that we have prepared ourselves the best way possible for anything at all that we might encounter.”

Campbell added: “Right now we are doing our homework, trying to look for our advantages and disadvantages as well as their advantages and disadvantages, so that when we go to a training session we know what skills to concentrate on based on our research.”

The next feature will be with Jamaica Under 20 captain Tyronie Rowe and vice captain Smeathan Tapper on Wednesday.