Jamie Barnwell, Bermuda’s new rugby coach, has revealed that his side have set themselves the target of being crowned Caribbean champions ahead of their Rugby Americas North Championship opener tomorrow.
Bermuda welcome Jamaica to the National Stadium at 3pm, before two further matches against the winner of Guyana and Guadeloupe and a final encounter against back-to-back defending champions USA South.
Barnwell is under no illusion about the task in hand to achieve their lofty ambitions so early on into his tenure, but remains confident that the togetherness of the squad will hold them in good stead as they kick off their quest for honours.
“The first job for us was to establish a group of players and a culture within that group,” said Barnwell, who was named the new head coach last month.
“The ambition that the squad are aiming for is to be Caribbean champions.
“It is a lofty one because we have to play some tough internationals, but the squad are fully aware that they have to be at their very best and focus on the task in hand.
“In this first game against Jamaica we will be looking to realise our goals and set out what we want going forward. For us to achieve our aim, this is very much a must-win game.
“All he players have bought in to what we are trying to implement off the field and I’m more than confident that our hard work will translate on the pitch.
“The Rugby Americas North Championships offer an exciting opportunity for the squad, but will also be very challenging.
“We are certainly looking forward to getting back to a packed National Stadium with the fantastic support that we get there.”
Among his 32-man squad Barnwell has selected 12 uncapped players, including Danny Pell, Traer Stephens, Jamie Baum, Stephan Smit, Jordan De Shields, Miguel Postlethwaite, Paul Kelley, Felix Obas, Ryan Murray, Cameron Foote, Scott Clarke and Ja’kee Simons.
Corey Boyce, Tom Healey, Darren Richardson, Adam Richards, Thomas Greenslade and Conor McGowan have also been recalled, after missing out on the 46-0 victory in the warm-up match against New Jersey side Princeton Flying Tigers last month.
Barnwell, who will be without Ben Green and Mike Kelley through injury, hailed the hunger of his squad, with everyone keen to make their mark under the new coach.
“I’m in a privileged position where everyone has turned up wanting to play for positions,” Barnwell added.
“In the past, I think there were times when coaches were scrambling around trying to find players. Since I came in that hasn’t been an issue whatsoever. We actually named an initial 51-man squad at the beginning, which I don’t think has ever happened before.
“I wanted to cast an eye over as many players as possible from the experienced guys who have been playing for over a decade, to the younger guys who are looking at facilitating with the aim of playing for Bermuda.
“It has kept everyone on their toes. The older guys won’t give up their shirts lightly, but my selection will never be based on age; it is all about form. To me if you’re good enough, then you’re old enough.
“We are building a philosophy within the squad and there has been a massive effort from everyone; they have all reacted really positively.
“We’ve set ourselves positive targets that we want to achieve immediately and everyone has bought in to it. That first warm-up victory against Princeton was a great start and I’m confident that we have prepared in the same way for this weekend’s match.”
The game against Jamaica will be the main feature in a full day of rugby. Youth games will begin at noon followed by the women’s contact league. Entry is $5.