With nothing but qualifying for the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) Sevens Rugby World Cup on their mind, Guyana’s male and female Sevens team departed these shores Thursday morning to compete in the North American and West Indies Rugby Association (NAWIRA) Sevens World Cup qualifiers from October 25th-26th in the Bahamas.
It will be the first time that Guyana will be sending a female team to the qualifiers, but it is their male team that much is expected of, since they are also the two times defending Sevens Caribbean Champions and will be entering the event ranked as number three behind power houses Canada and the USA.
Their chances of qualifying for the World Cup has been described as the best ever, since they are grouped with Jamaica, whom they defeated in the last two Caribbean Sevens finals, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The USA who have replaced Canada as a core member of the IRB Sevens World Series in 2008-2009 have been drawn in Pool A with Mexico and Bermuda, while Canada head Pool B with Trinidad & Tobago, Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.
Sherlock Solomon, coach of the male team said that he’s certain that through his charges, Guyana will make the journey to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) next year since it was not by chance that they became the Caribbean champions two years in succession and they have been constantly working hard as their competitors.
“The only disadvantage Guyana have leading into these qualifiers, was that we haven’t played much Sevens rugby as a team this year as compared to the USA and Canada,” said Solomon, who also noted that his five overseas players who are in the squad will make a big difference in the team.
On the distaff side, the women’s team will be looking to upstage some of their more seasoned counterparts at this level since this will be their first outing at the qualifiers. Female coach Alton Agard said that his team is fully ready both mentally and physically since they have been preparing for the past three months. He said however it will be rougher on them this time around against the USA and Canada since they will be competing against the national teams.
“Normally when we compete against them in the Caribbean Cup and so on, we compete against some clubs in those countries, but this time around, it will be their national teams and you can imagine how tough they will be since even with their club teams they are difficult to beat. But we are ready for the challenge and my girls will give a good account of themselves,” Agard maintained.
He also pointed out that they will be without one of their most skillful players in Jessant Josiah who will not be making the trip because of some trouble in acquiring her passport on time. He mentioned that her presence will surely be missed since she is one of his utility players.
Meanwhile, off the field the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) has been struggling to secure the funding to send the team to the qualifiers. And $8.5M was budgeted to send both teams to the Bahamas but this cost was cut significantly since the IRB had agreed to help offset some travelling expenses. In addition the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) boosted their chances by donating $1M. Several other businesses have chipped in but according to the GRFU they are still far from their financial target.
Eleven male and nine female teams will contest the NAWIRA qualifier, with the aim of securing one of two places available from both competitions for the IRB Sevens World Cup which is slated to take place in Dubai in March next year.
Only the top two teams from the NAWIRA qualifiers will make it to the IRB/RWC and Guyana are aiming to at least make it to the final, which guarantees them a place in the 2009 IRB/RWC to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).