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Former national coach plotting Bermuda’s downfall with Cayman

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Jamie Barnwell is now pointing the way forward for Cayman Islands

Jamie Barnwell, the former coach of Bermuda’s national rugby team, is returning to the island this weekend with the ambition of beating his old friends.

Barnwell returns to Bermuda as interim coach of the Cayman Islands, who will be hoping to beat the host team at Flora Duffy Stadium this afternoon (5pm) as the two teams warm up for the Rugby Americas North tournament.

It is fair to say that after leaving his leading role in Bermuda in January, Barnwell did not expect to be back on island only three months later

“It’s a bit of a surprise to be back so soon but I’m also extremely excited,” Barnwell said.

“I spent six years on the island and five years coaching the men’s and women’s rugby teams, so I know lots of people and I’m really excited to be able to catch up with everyone and see everybody. It’s a quick trip but I’m looking forward to it.”

The link-up with the Cayman Islands came as a surprise to Barnwell but he was happy to help out those in charge of the sport on a temporary basis.

“I left Bermuda and went to join up with a team in Major League Rugby called the New England Free Jacks. I was with them during their preseason for eight weeks,” Barnwell said.

“Then I got a phone call from the Cayman Islands to ask if I was available. Originally it was for a year but I was also in the running for a couple of other jobs and couldn’t commit to that, so they offered three months and I thought that would be a great opportunity to offer some value.

Jamie Barnwell, left, with Bermuda’s Sevens team last year

“Originally it was meant to just be going out to schools and doing some community coaching but that quickly turned into coaching the men’s national team.”

The domestic rugby scene in Bermuda has been struggling for players of late, with the organisation run by a merry band of volunteers.

Barnwell revealed the key difference between the two island nations.

“Cayman is a lot better resourced,” he said.

“They have full-time community rugby coaches and they have a full-time director of rugby. They have their own clubhouse and their own pitch, whereas Bermuda do not have anybody getting paid.

“It’s all done by volunteers and it just goes to show the passion required to run a big programme. They have some stability with their coaches in Brian Archibald, who has taken over as head coach, and Chris Naylor.

“They have both been stalwarts for Bermuda rugby, first as players and now coaching. Bermuda will be in great stead with those two and there will be a lot of youngsters coming in and trying to make their mark in the side.”

Barnwell has had enough time to assess the relative merits of the Cayman Islands squad and believes his side have a number of players who will provide Bermuda with a thorough test.

“Cayman are sending a strong squad of 23,” Barnwell said.

“It’s not a touring team, it’s very much a Test team. Sometimes one of the biggest challenges you have when you travel is having everyone available, and we have.

“Look out for Conal Keane, who is the captain and fly-half and will be playing his final two Tests. He will be looking for a really good sendoff and is a wonderful footballer.

“Mike Luxton is a Bristolian who will be in the pack, but there are so many good players and the front row is one of the best I have seen in the Caribbean. They have a lot of strength in depth.”

Barnwell is finding it difficult to predict who will win between the two sides but is focused on the strengths of the Cayman team rather than identifying any potential weaknesses with Bermuda,

“I focus very much on the team that I am with and the two teams do not play the same way tactically,” Barnwell said

“As coaches it would be stupid to copy and paste, so you have to change the way teams play based around the players you have.

“I have some idea and insight who will be starting for Bermuda but Brian and Chris will have brought new ideas to that team and they will have new players.

“Bermuda have not lost a game of 15s rugby since 2019. They are a tricky side and won the Caribbean Championship in 2019 and since then whenever they have played in Ran competition they haven’t lost, so they are going to be playing for a lot.

“There is no reason why they won’t be a real threat on the day and it will be a really interesting game. I can’t call it but I just hope that it will be a good game of rugby played in good spirits.”

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Published May 04, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated May 04, 2024 at 7:49 am)

Former national coach plotting Bermuda’s downfall with Cayman

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