Members of the West Indies rugby team was due to arrive in Vancouver, Canada last evening to begin a four-day camp today with the Canadian national team before heading to Hong Kong on March 22 for the IRB World Rugby Sevens.
In Canada, where they are the guests of Rugby Canada Sevens, they will train with the Canadians and play a number of practice matches, under the watchful eyes of head coach Joe Whipple, manager Curtis Nero and physiotherapist, Martin Varga . This encampment follows a one week camp in Barbados late last month.
The West Indies are one of the newest teams which will be playing in the Hong Kong Sevens for the first time, with their first match of the tournament being against Kenya at the Hong Kong Stadium on the opening day, March 27.
On the second day they will come up against the USA in the 13th match of the tournament and then the Scotland side in the 25th match. West Indies has been placed in Pool F with the USA, Scotland and Kenya.
While in Canada the team will be accommodated at the University of Victoria and will be training at Canada’s new High Performance Centre along with the Canadian team who are placed in Pool E with Chinese Taipei, and rugby power houses Fiji and Samoa.
Twenty four international teams would be taking part in the three-day event including core teams which make the tournament an annual event – New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, USA, Wales, Australia, Argentina, Fiji, England, France and Kenya.
Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Uruguay, West Indies and Zimbabwe are also adding teams to the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse-sponsored Hong Kong Sevens 2009.
In a recent interview with Guyanese members of the squad including Claudius Butts who has captained the West Indies Developmental team over the past four years, Stabroek Sport learnt that the team was a more matured one having gained valuable experience at the local annual Trinidad and Tobago International Invitational sevens over the past four years, the USA Sevens held in Los Angeles and San Diego over the same period, and the Punta del Este Invitational Sevens held in Uruguay in January.
Apart from the members who reside within the Caribbean, Butts expects London-based players including winger, Guyanese Kevin Mckenzie, who is generally hungry for tries, to step up to the plate.
Guyanese scrum half, Albert La Rose, who is still in the Caribbean and will be leaving Barbados on Saturday, March 21 via London, to join the team in Hong Kong says he has more confidence in the regional side than he has ever had before. He feels that he and his teammates were more mentally prepared than they ever were.
The team comprises the three Guyanese, two from Trinidad and Tobago, one from St Vincent and the Grenadines, two from the Bahamas, two from Jamaica, one from the Cayman Islands and one from Bermuda.
They are being sponsored by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) Company, Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited and Caribbean Airlines among a number of corporate sponsors and individuals of West Indian rugby.