Bermuda handed another chance to challenge for Commonwealth Games spot
Jamie Barnwell has renewed aspirations of Bermuda securing a place at the upcoming Commonwealth Games after Rugby Americas North announced that the RAN Sevens Qualifiers are set to go ahead after all.
The senior men’s team hopes of challenging for qualification looked to be all but dashed after RAN were previously forced to postpone its Super Sevens tournament ― which was to be played in Mexico City on February 12 and 13 ― due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Bermuda, as well the other nations within the region, have been handed a lifeline with a new qualifying tournament confirmed to be held at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas on April 23 and 24.
The two-day event ― which includes senior men’s and women’s divisions ― will also serve as qualifiers for this year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town, South Africa in September, as well as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England in July.
The top two men’s teams and one women’s team from the event will book their ticket to the Rugby World Cup Sevens, while the highest-placed men’s team eligible to participate in the Commonwealth Games will represent RAN, alongside Canada, whose men and women’s sides have already pre-qualified.
“Basically the qualifying tournament is back on and so we’ve essentially got an eight-week lead up to prepare and get ready to compete in the Bahamas,” said Barnwell, the national head coach.
“That gives us less time than we would have had in the build up to the other tournament [Super Sevens] but we’re really excited as a squad again and more determined than ever before.”
That determination would have increased after Bermuda narrowly missed out on an historic place in the final of the Fireminds RAN Sevens in Turks and Caicos in October, in which Jamaica went on to lift the trophy after a 21-7 victory over Mexico, who earned their place in the final by beating Barnwell’s side 12-5.
While the final list of competing teams, pools and structure of the upcoming qualifier are yet to be announced, both Jamaica and Mexico are expected to be in attendance at the tournament which will be the first international Sevens competition hosted by RAN since the Turks and Caicos event.
Despite acknowledging the challenge of contending with the likes of the region’s powerhouses, Barnwell has not ruled anything out, having led Mexico heading into the closing stages of their previous match until a late yellow card ultimately proved pivotal, with the opposition running in two late tries.
“In all honesty the past few years we have been chasing the likes of Mexico and Jamaica and to beat those teams we need to do something we’ve never done before,” he added.
“While they’ll be considered the heavy favourites, as we’ve seen in Sevens rugby anything can happen. We were moments away from beating Mexico last time out and so we’ll be going to Bahamas to build on that and as always place as high as we can.”
In the build up to the tournament, Barnwell’s preparations have been dealt a blow with the experienced Tashon DeSilva being ruled out through injury, while Mikey Dill will also be unavailable, after opting to take a break from the sport.
However, the head coach will be boosted significantly with the return of the highly-influential Tom Healy, who was forced to miss the previous trip to the Turks and Caicos with an injury.
“Unfortunately we’ll be missing a number of guys who played in the last tournament but Tom [Healy] is back which is great news for the team,” Barnwell said.
“We have a few new faces and it’s an opportunity for those coming in to impress. It’s an exciting group that we have and hopefully the signs are positive as we continue our build up to the tournament.”