Future is bright for Bermuda rugby, says Healy
Tom Healy is confident of a bright future for the Bermuda Sevens team despite a disappointing past couple of weeks in Mexico.
Unable to finish their matches at the Central American Caribbean Games because of injuries, the team then came seventh at the North American Caribbean Rugby Association Sevens championship a week later.
Issues with player eligibility, injuries, fitness levels, and a small player pool all contributed to a less than ideal fortnight for the Bermuda coach and his players.
Still, it is not all doom and gloom, and Healy, the team's coach, believes that there is no reason why the side cannot play alongside the world's best at the Hong Kong Sevens in two or three years' time.
The reasons for Healy's optimism might not be immediately apparent, but it is the shift in culture within the squad, which now includes a number of specialist sevens players, that raises his hopes.
“Before there were guys with a 15s mindset playing sevens, now we've got a predominately Bermudian team who are specialist sevens players,” Healy said.
“That cultural shift isn't complete, but it's clearly progressing from where we were a couple of years ago. Sevens, although it comes under the banner of rugby, is almost a separate sport entirely.
“It requires a different type of athlete, it requires a different skill set, we now have players with sevens specialist skills.”
The most significant shift that Healy has seen is when it comes to fitness, an essential component to a fast-paced game that last 14 minutes, as opposed to 15s which lasts 80 minutes.
“When you break sevens down into its component parts, they are, man-for-man, more skilful and fitter than any 15s player,” he said. “There are a lot of players who are buying in to increased fitness, outside of the standard Tuesday and Thursday training sessions. Guys are beginning to do additional work, we have groups of players who want to better themselves, who want to go the extra mile.
“That's been a huge success, that has never happened. When you have the likes of Somers [Brewin] and [Andre] Landy wanting to do hill sprints, and dragging extra players with them, it creates a culture of ‘you can be in our group, but to be in our group you've got to push yourself'.”
As with any sport, competition for places often improves results, and as much as fitness this will the key to Bermuda's success in the future.
A burgeoning youth rugby programme is creating a pool of players who Healy hopes will grasp the opportunities that sevens can bring. Now an Olympic sport, it is another avenue for young Bermuda athletes to represent their country on the world stage.
At the moment, Bermuda have fewer than 20 players to choose from, and Healy would like a pool of 30 to 40, all of whom are fit enough to compete in a sevens tournament over two days.
“All the other nations that have been successful have over 40 players, and that's 40 players who are pushing each other in fitness tests and performance,” said Healy.
“The tests that we are putting into place some of the athletes fail them, but because the player pool is so small, they are still successful in making the squad.
“We need to cut that out, we need to have the seven fittest, most skilful players, playing, as opposed to reaching out to players and asking them to help us out.”