Jamaica Gleaner / Jamaica Rugby Football Union chairman Jerry Benzwick says the association wants to significantly increase its training sessions for local-based players as they get ready for next year’s schedule of regional and international competitions.
The Jamaica Crocs won the Rugby Americas North Sevens competition in Mexico last month, qualifying for next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, as well as the Hong Kong Sevens tournament, the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation (CASCO) Games, and the Commonwealth Games set for the Gold Coast in Australia in April next year.
Benzwick said that sending squads heavily made up of British-based players to these competitions next year, as was the case last April in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, is counterproductive to the development of local rugby. As a result, he wants to give local players the opportunity to make these teams and get more exposure in international play.
“We have to give our local boys a chance to prove themselves,” Benzwick said. “They are up for the fight. They want to be a part of that programme. They want to be a part of the history, they want to be a part of the journey. We are not locking the door on them, they are always there. We always want them to be 100 per cent a part of and involved in the programme.
“What we acknowledged is that the (British based) players that we found are playing at a higher level,” he said. “They are big, fast and strong, tall, well developed and spend a lot more time playing rugby than we do here in Jamaica. That gives them a distinct advantage over our local players. I am on the sidelines just cringing at how hard they hit people and get up right after.”
Benzwick said that playing as much of the sport in training could add significant value to the local players’ education to the game.
“What we have to do now is get our players into a training regimen, where they are training four to five, even six days a week so that their fitness and understanding of Sevens Rugby is high,” he shared. “So when they go to a competition, they can compete at that level. Trust me, I can compare rugby to football by saying when Jamaica goes to play Mexico, Canada and the USA, they can’t seem to surpass those teams. One of the reasons that happens is because the level of competition that some of our boys is exposed to is just not high enough for them to get the skill level up. Then there is how much time the team spends in preparation. What can we really teach them in the time we have them that will make them better players to compete at that level?”