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Valuable lessons from defeats
Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter
JAMAICA'S YOUTH rugby team had its first taste of real action on the international scene when it competed at the International Rugby Union Under-20 World Trophy event held in Santiago, Chile from April 15-30.
The team, which returned to the island on Wednesday, was the first Caribbean country to qualify for an International Rugby Board (IRB) age-group tournament.
Their participation in the competition was achieved last July when they defeated Guyana 4-1 on penalties in the NAWIRA (North America West Indies Rugby Association) Under-19 Championships after both teams were tied 14-14 at the end of regulation time.
In last month's competition, Jamaica played in Group B alongside more advanced rugby nations including Georgia, South Korea and Uruguay.
The Caribbean team kicked off the competition against Georgia before tackling Uruguay four days later and then South Korea.
The Jamaicans were outplayed in all departments by the much bigger and more experienced Georgian and Uruguay teams going down 90-3 and 82-0. However, their enthusiasm had not waned and they fought back against South Korea 55-17 and the Cook Islands 54-15.
In the final, Uruguay beat Chile 20-8.
According to head coach Victor Hyde, the team gained invaluable experience and essential information regarding the high standard of play expected at the international level. "Despite the fact that we played inadequately at the championships, our downfalls were not without valuable lessons that we will attempt to implement in our programme here in Jamaica," Hyde said. "We now know what to expect from these high-ranked teams," he said.
No proper facilities
Hyde stated that Jamaica does not have proper facilities to develop an adequate rugby programme that is required for world standards. He elaborated that the rugby team has its practice sessions once per week at either Jose Marti Technical or G.C. Foster College. The team is also unable to fulfil its physical and nutritional obligations because of a lack of funding.
"We have experienced the strength of the participating teams in the competition. Physically, they are much bigger than us. They are also well-trained tactically and conditioned for the aggressiveness of the game," he said.
Jamaica, he said, despite the lack of exposure and physical endurance were able to hold their ground to the last blow.
"We are a very patriotic nation. You beat us today, but we prepare ourselves and condition our minds and on the return leg we normally give these teams a hard run. We are very determined and wanted to see Jamaica in the world standings," Hyde said.
At the end of the 15-day, competition Jamaica placed eighth from a field of 18 nations. According to Hubert Thomas, leading scorer for the Jamaican team, he gained invaluable experience playing on the international stage.
The 20-year old was playing in his fourth international match for Jamaica and has aspirations of moving on to the senior team.
"I am happy that I was able to represent Jamaica at the international level. I scored two tries which helped to motivate the team. But the other teams were more motivated and stronger than us and therefore they won the games," Thomas said.
Coach Hyde said the Jamaican Under-20 team would now turn its attention to preparing for the Caribbean Youth Rugby Championships in Barbados from July 5-15.