With a mechanic, chef, lawyer and an engineer, Rugby Sevens outsiders Barbados epitomize the spirit of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
While no-one expects Barbados to receive anything other than a lesson in the art of Rugby Sevens from New Zealand, hosts Scotland and the much-fancied Canadians, just being at the Commonwealth Games is victory in itself for the Caribbean nation.
Their presence alone in Glasgow is reassuring proof that the spirit of Rugby is very much alive and well.
After finishing fourth in the Americas Championship and failing by one place to qualify automatically for the Commonwealth Games, Barbados got a late reprieve a few months ago when they were asked to replace Nigeria, who decided to withdraw from the competition.
It was an invitation the Bajans were happy to accept – even though they face the prospect of playing the most formidable Sevens nation, the ultimate David versus Goliath challenge.
“At work last week I was a bag of nerves really, I couldn’t believe I’m going to go play in the Commonwealth Games against the likes of New Zealand who are the best in the world. It’s pretty nerve-wracking at the moment,” admitted Phil Lucas, who was part of the Barbados squad that debuted at the Hong Kong Sevens.
In Hong Kong, Barbados suffered heavy defeats to Zimbabwe, Russia and Chile in the pool stages of the HSBC Sevens World Series qualifier, scoring only 15 points along the way, but Lucas believes the experience will stand them in good stead at the Commonwealth Games.
“We went down thinking we might have a chance in the developing nations set-up but then quickly realised that it’s a massive step up from what we’ve been playing in the Caribbean championships. So it’s been a steep learning curve and I think as an experience it made us a lot better and stronger as a team.”
A six-week training camp in Sutton Coldfield in the English Midlands - where Barbados’ home-based players 'The Kukos' came together with their UK-based brethren dubbed the 'Flying Fish' - has also helped forge a real sense of togetherness in the amateur squad.
“It’s a huge mix really. We’ve come together like one big family,” said Marcus Harewood, a flanker who plays for Sutton Coldfield in the fifth tier of English rugby’s league system.
“I’m a solicitor and chained to a desk unfortunately. I work in-house for the police which I really enjoy but I’d rather be playing rugby. We’ve got mechanics and we’ve got a chef, who thankfully sorts the team out whenever we’re together.”
Barbados-based Sean Ward added: “Monday to Friday I’m an engineer, I work on a lot of greasy stuff and I do some delivery driving as well. Back home we are just regular people who the public see every day and wouldn’t necessarily interact with. But now they see us on this stage the interest in us has blown up big.”
Sadly, eligibility issues mean that Harewood and six others will be denied the chance to compete in the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s a huge blow,” said Harewood. “I’m 27 so I’m not the youngest of Sevens players so the Commonwealth Games might never come around again and a chance to face the All Blacks, who are heroes of mine, will definitely leave a question unanswered, so yeah it’s been a massive personal blow.”
Also on Total Rugby, All Black legend Sean Fitzpatrick is our special guest, Super Rugby reaches the semi-final stage, Kenya focus on Fifteens after their RWC 2015 heartache and Zinzan Brooke provides the magic in our World Cup memory. All available to watch HERE>>
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