by RENALDO DORSETT
With an infusion of new talent, and playing inspired, Bahamas Rugby Football Union national team head coach Minoli Roussos said he expects one of the best national team performances ever.
The Bahamas senior men’s national team will face Mexico in the Rugby Americas North Zone Championships, Saturday May 7th at the Winton Rugby Centre at 4pm.
The tournament also serves as 2019 World Cup qualification match.
“I’m pretty confident, the team is pretty confident and I feel like we have every reason to be,” Roussos said, “The training has been going great. The team is fit, the training sessions have looked good I would say that we are ready to go. Everything is good looking and we are looking forward for the team to this team doing well. This is probably one of the best teams we have fielded in quite come time.”
They Bahamas previously defeated both Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos in 2015 to finish top of the North Zone Cup division. This year they are included in the full North Zone Championship and will face Cayman Islands and Bermuda following the match against Mexico.
The Bahamas has not advanced by the opening stage of World Cup qualification in their most recent attempts. In 2012, the Bahamas suffered losses to the Cayman Islands and Bermuda in attempt to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.
Roussus said the team has a ‘new look’ with a talented core group of players, highlighted by the addition of Former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland u20 prop George Hunter.
“He’s made some new adjustments to the way we do some things, but the most important thing has been that he has blended well with the player,” he said, “I think at first he was nervous coming in not sure how the players would take to him. I had to tell him the way we work things down here is completely different. It’s a more open free environment so he was able to come in and get comfortable pretty quickly and he ran some of the training sessions.”
Hunter, the 24-year-old Aberdeen, Scotland native qualifies for the Bahamas by virtue of his grandfather being born on the islands.
Hunter was part of Scotland’s u20 squad for two seasons, playing in the u20 6 Nations and World Rugby u20 Championship tournaments in both 2010 and 2011. In 2012 he joined Glasgow on a development contract and made three senior appearances, including one as a replacement in the Heineken Cup against Castres. Hunter signed a short-term deal with the club ahead of the 2015-16 season but did not make any league appearances before returning to BT Premiership side Ayr.
WorldRugby.org currently ranks the Bahamas No. 85 out of 102 countries while Mexico is ranked No.57.
In their last matchup against Mexico, the Bahamas opened the 2014 North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Championships with a 33-18 loss to Mexico.
Their backs made it into the Hong Kong Sevens so we know they are coming in with a talented group. They have removed all of their videos that were uploaded to YouTube to have an element of surprise, but we know their u20s programme has the same coaching staff as the men’s national team and some of the guys that played against Mexico last time will be back so there is some knowledge there,” Roussos said, “In any event our defence is prepared to withstand whatever comes and have strategized well enough to win, it’s just a matter of execution at this point.”
The team will also have added motivation, inspired by the recent injury to avid sportsman Damian Neville during a training session with the side as they prepared to face Mexico.
“We try not to talk about that situation too much but we want this win because we are doing it for him,” Roussos said, “I want them to keep their aggression and remain focused on the task at hand but of course we think about it all the time and its even more of a reason to get it done.
Neville suffered a serious spinal last month after an accident during team training.
In an attempt to protect an injured shoulder from impact, it is reported that Mr Neville – an avid rugby fan who practices regularly with the squad – lowered his head shortly before contact with another player, resulting in him suffering a ‘jammed’ neck.