TT’s men and women’s sevens rugby teams will kick-start their quest for regional silverware today when the two-day Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens Championship starts at Bellevue Plantation & Polo Club, St Michael, Barbados.
The women’s team, which is in the second of two groups – Pool B – will be the first in action when they face Bahamas at 9.52 am. The Carlton Felix-coached women’s outfit will then take on Curacao at 1.44 pm, before facing Bermuda in their final match of the day at 3.44 pm. They face Jamaica in their final group match tomorrow at 9.44 am.
The winners of each group will meet the runners-up in the other at the Cup semifinal stage, which begins at 12.30 pm tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the men’s team, led by coach Larry Mendez, will play their three Pool B matches today against St Lucia (10.36 am), St Vincent & the Grenadines (12.26 pm) and Cayman Islands (2.28 pm).
The Cup quarter-finals, which features the top two teams in each of the four groups, will start at 10.06 am tomorrow.
Both TT teams are expected to give it all for the sake of qualifying for next year’s Pan American Games rugby tournament, with two spots up for grabs among the men and women’s tournaments.
The coaches of both outfits have expressed confidence heading into the tournament, with Mendez describing his team as a “relatively mature outfit who can appreciate what it takes to compete and win at this level.”
The team is captained by Joseph Quashie, who also has been in exceptional form for his club Harvard which recently captured the TT Rugby Football Union (TTRFU) Championship Division 15s title.
Felix said while his women’s team is “structured differently than previous occasions, the athletes selected have the experience and ability to go all the way.”
Nicolette Pantor, who has had a typically strong domestic campaign, leading Police to a dominant run in the TTRFU Women’s Rugby Festival, was selected as the women’s team captain.
Felix and the women’s team will be eager to return to the pinnacle of regional rugby following their inability to defend their RAN 10s Championship crown earlier this year, due to financial constraints plaguing the TTRFU.
According to a press release issued by the TTRFU, the teams admittedly may not have been able to make the journey to Barbados to compete had it not been for the intervention and assistance from the Sport Company of TT (SporTT), the Ministry of Sport and the TT Olympic Committee.
Pool A: Jamaica, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands.
Pool B: Guyana, Barbados, Curacao.
Pool C: Mexico, Bermuda, Turks & Caicos, Guadeloupe.
Pool D: TT, Cayman Islands, St Vincent & the Grenadines, St Lucia.
Pool A: Mexico, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Barbados, St Lucia.
Pool B: Jamaica, TT, Bermuda, Bahamas, Curacao.
Men’s team: Nigel Ballington, Stefan Cooksammy, Shakeel Dyte, Keston Earle, Shakir Flemming, Christopher Hudson, Wayne Kelly, Leon Pantor, Joseph Quashie (captain), Agboola Silverthorn, Sefanaia Waqa.
Staff: Larry Mendez (coach), Curtis Nero (manager), Jelani Baptiste (physiotherapist).
Women’s team: Angel Cooper, Fayola Jack, Kwanieze John, Lean Kintiba, Marika Mendez, Nicolette Pantor (captain), Carlina Phillip, Kathleen Stephen, Juliana Straker, Maria Thomas, Kanisha Vincent, Christine Walcott.
Staff: Carlton Felix (coach), Jenilee Limada (manager), Derek Ashby-Williams (physiotherapist).