Reggae Warriors step up preparation
Jamaica's Rugby League team, the Reggae Warriors, will next month begin its campaign to qualify for one of the seven remaining spots in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup that will be held by Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.
The Reggae Warriors will play hosts, the United States, on December 4 and Canada on December 8 in Florida.
The team approaches these crucial games at a distinct disadvantage, having not been able to play any practice games because of a lack of resources. The inactivity has seen Jamaica fall to 29th in the world rankings, while their opponents, who played in September and October, are ranked 10th and 13th, respectively.
Head coach Romeo Monteith believes, however, that the team can rise above the challenge.
"Anything can happen over 80 minutes. Our players are really motivated as they have never beaten the USA before and we have lost to Canada in our last three meetings," he said.
"Our aim is to play good rugby, enjoy the games, and give a good account of ourselves. There is a lot of pride in our camp as our programme here has been steadily improving over the years and we know many people are rooting for us to do well."
The team has already begun preparing for its matches, but they lack match fitness, Monteith explained.
"We will definitely be cold in that first game; our combinations and team chemistry will be heavily tested, and it's up to us as the coaching staff to mentally stimulate the team and get them switched on," he said. "We have been addressing that with some high-pressure training sessions in Kingston and the squad has been responding well. We have over 30 players vying for positions and they are trying to create a competitive environment within the squad to compensate for the lack of actual matches."
It was announced on August 3, 2014 that seven of the eight quarter-finalists from the last World Cup will qualify automatically for the 2017 tournament. Those include Australia and New Zealand, England, Fiji, France, Samoa and Scotland.
The USA, 2013 quarter-finalists, were denied automatic qualification after a long-running internal governance dispute saw their RLIF membership temporarily suspended in 2014. They were later accepted to take part in the qualification process.
Papua, New Guinea, were initially set to be involved in the qualifying competition, but because they have become co-hosts of the tournament, they have automatically qualified.
In addition to the seven automatic qualifiers, the remaining seven spots will come from four different qualification zones; three from Europe, one from Asia/Pacific, one from the Americas, and one from the Middle East/Africa.