Rugby sevens legend Ben Gollings is adamant the future of the format in Bermuda is extremely bright despite watching their dreams of competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo dashed.
The former England player, who became the first rugby sevens player to score more than 2,000 points, was part of the Bermuda men’s coaching set-up, as the team finished fourth at the Rugby Americas North competition in the Cayman Islands on Sunday.
For the men’s team, failure to finish inside the top three, after a 50-0 defeat by Mexico in the men’s third-place match, ended any hopes of challenging for a place at the Olympics.
That is because this year’s tournament also served as a regional qualifier, with the top men’s team securing automatic qualification to Tokyo, while the second and third-placed men’s teams qualified for the World Rugby Olympic Repechage tournament hosted in Monte Carlo in 2020, with further Olympic places up for grabs.
Despite the disappointment of falling just one place short of keeping their Olympic aspirations alive, Gollings chose to focus on the importance of the experience for Bermuda’s young squad and the impact on their progression going forward.
“The end result was not what we were looking for, but if you look at the bigger picture, it was a very successful tournament,” said Gollings, who is still the career leader in points scored on the World Rugby Sevens Series with 2,652.
“The result we achieved means we’ve retained our position in the rankings in our area so we have not lost anything. More importantly, a lot of young players stepped up, performed really well and enjoyed a really important learning curve.
“Having to come up against nations such as Canada and Mexico is always going to be tough, but I feel like we can use our performances as a springboard for what we can achieve in the future.
“Our aim was to try and reach the repechage tournament at least but, unfortunately, Mexico played a great game in that final match and we just couldn’t stop them.
“To improve and get stronger we have to play teams like Canada and Mexico. We are realistic and know they will always be tough encounters, but we have to make the most of it because it’s the only way we will grow.
“From a personal point of view, I genuinely believe that there is some really great talented athletes in Bermuda and it is about nurturing that talent and adding to it along the way.
“Over time, this team can really improve and hopefully turn the odd win into victories more consistently. The future of sevens rugby is very bright in Bermuda and the current state of the sport is extremely healthy.”
Reflecting further on the future, Gollings believes Bermuda can emulate the progression of nations such as the United States and target appearances at prestigious tournaments such as the Hong Kong Sevens on a regular basis.
“Going to the Olympics would have been fantastic, of course, but being part of these tournaments can act as a catalyst for bigger and better things going forward,” he added.
“Big, prestigious tournaments such as the Hong Kong Sevens are definitely achievable for this group at some stage in the future.
“Globally we are seeing massive changes in sevens rugby. You only have to look at nations like the United States and their growth over the past four years. They were looking at qualifying for tournaments, like we are now, four years ago, and look at them now, they’re one of the biggest nations involved.
“Sevens rugby is changing and there’s no reason a nation like Bermuda can’t do something similar despite the size of the country.
“Success is measured differently for every nation. By no means am I saying in four years we will be the No 1 side in the world, but the talent pool is certainly here in Bermuda to make big strides forward.
“There is no reason why this nation can’t be more competitive, fight at the top against the much bigger nations and feature at tournaments such as the Hong Kong Sevens on a regular basis.”