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Rugby head coach humbled after disappointing Cayman defeat

Bermuda and Cayman Islands rugby players shake hands after tough battle

Interim head coach of the national rugby team, Brian Archibald, conceded his side were handed a tough lesson in a heavy defeat to Cayman Islands at Flora Duffy Stadium on Saturday night.

The youthful team, which included a large crop of players making their international debuts, endured a baptism of fire as Cayman, led by former Bermuda coach Jamie Barnwell for the first time, eased to a convincing 44-12 victory.

While frank in his assessment of the performance, Archibald, who has taken the reins on a voluntary basis assisted by Chris Naylor, is aware that a team in transition should not expect immediate success.

“It could have been a lot worse and we got what we deserved,“ Archibald said.

“It was a pretty clear comparison between where the two teams are at and Cayman are a lot further ahead in their development than we are. We have not been training or playing enough over the past year or so and that was obvious to see.

“However, they stuck at it when they could have easily folded and it showed everyone involved where we need to be.”

It’s been an interesting few months for Archibald who is approaching the task with a long-term view

“Myself and Chris were asked to come in and help out, so for us it’s about trying to put in some foundations and building blocks for the longer-term future,” Archibald said.

“We’ve made it clear to the players that they are not in a position where they can just turn up and compete at international level and so they have to want to take the opportunity to get better, whether that’s in matches or in training.

“We have a small pool of players as it is, which is a tough position to be in, but we have to try and get people together and try and show players on island that this is something worth being part of by creating a positive environment.

“We are in a transitional phase, but we are all in it together, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We are trying to do things in the right way and build through the youth players.

“Everyone involved knows what we need to do, but that won’t happen overnight and we can only do that by having the same ethos and all moving in the right direction.”

The encounter was arranged as a warm-up in preparation for the upcoming Rugby Americas North tournament, in which Bermuda will travel to Jamaica on May 18 before hosting Bahamas on June 1.

While determined to be competitive against their regional rivals, Archibald was quick to temper expectations.

“While we are aware that the RAN tournament means something and it is our next focus, we also know where we are at the moment in terms of development,” he added.

“Obviously everyone wants good results, but for us, the overall performance and long-term progression of the team is the major focus.

“These early results may not turn out the way that we want, but having that time with these players, making them more battle-hardened and putting the foundations in place is important.

“We don't have a time scale on our time in charge. We are just concentrating on this block and trying to put plans in place for the longer term.”

In stark contrast, Barnwell was delighted with his successful return to Bermuda and his team’s perfect preparation ahead of the first of two encounters at home against Mexico at the end of this month.

“It was great to be back on a personal level, but the bottom line is that it was a great way to get ready for the upcoming RAN fixtures,” said Barnwell, who took charge of Cayman Islands last month after leaving his post with Bermuda in January.

“This is a new team in transition and we've only really been together for 4½ weeks, so it’s a new challenge for everyone. I wanted to try and see as much of the squad as possible and give them as many minutes as I could.

“We managed to do that and work on patterns of play, which was pleasing. We got what we needed from the match, but there is also plenty still to work on.

“As a team we need to keep developing and raise our levels for what will be a tough game against Mexico.

“It is also a chance for some revenge on a personal level. I came close to beating them on a number of occasions with Bermuda, but always came up just short. It would definitely be nice to get one over them now.”

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Published May 07, 2024 at 12:07 pm (Updated May 08, 2024 at 7:34 am)

Rugby head coach humbled after disappointing Cayman defeat

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