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Rugby team eager to impress in Hong Kong

Mike King

Rugby team eager to impress in Hong Kong

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Two years ago, the Barbados rugby team were ranked 15th in the Caribbean. Now, they are ranked second in the region and buoyant about making an impact at next March’s Hong Kong Sevens World Series, the rugby version of cricket’s World Twenty20 Tournament.
Team coach Joe Whipple told WEEKEND?SPORT they were quietly confident of competing favourably with heavyweights Russia and other nations such as Italy, Japan, Zimbabwe, Georgia, and host country Hong Kong.
At a media briefing yesterday at the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) headquarters in Wildey, Whipple made it clear that Barbados were undaunted by the tough task that lies ahead in March.
“We are not just showing up. We will be out to compete. We are improving all the time and will be very competitive. We are big, we are strong, and we are ready for the challenge in March,” he said.
Whipple said the team was leaving no stone unturned in their quest to make an impact at the Hong Kong Sevens, noting they will head to the United States in January to compete at the Las Vegas Invitational that is likely to attract Russia and Belgium.
Following that, the team will have a five-week camp in Loughborough, England, before the pre-tournament camp in Hong Kong.
Whipple is delighted with the progression local rugby has made over the last two years.
“Eighteen months ago, we were at the bottom of the mountain. We are now walking on the snow and climbing again. We have made strides,” he said.
George Nicholson, president of the Barbados Rugby Football Union,  said local rugby was very much on target with where it wants to go over the  next five years.
Nicholson said Barbados’ performance at the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Sevens in Caymans where they were second regionally and fourth overall, was heartening.
He said Barbados were now going to the Central American &?Caribbean Sports Organization (CACSO) Games in November 2014 in Mexico as the number two seeds.
“That seeding is advantageous as it means we avoid the strongest teams in the tournament and get to play against some of the lesser teams in our first matches.
“It will give us a nice lead into the tournament and immediately following that is another NACRA Sevens, which is a Pan Am qualifier. We are quite excited about our chances at all of those tournaments.
“Our performance in the Cayman Islands was a huge boost for rugby in this country and especially the development path we are on,” he said.
Nicholson said he would like to see more rugby on emphasis in the schools.
“It is a concern but we understand why. We have very limited resources with which to expand our programme in the schools. We are in six schools but we only have two or three persons in the schools coaching,” he said.
Team captain Sean Ward said the team was still on a high after their performance in the Cayman Islands.
“As a unit, we willl stay together and finish what we have been training for over the years. The Cayman Islands was a massive experience and we are looking forward to the future.”