Reggae Warriors optimistic ahead of Hawks clash
Jamaica Rugby League Association (JRLA) director Romeo Monteith is optimistic about the Reggae Warriors' chances against the United States Hawks in their Americas Championship match tomorrow at Hodges Field, Jacksonville, Florida.
Jamaica made headlines after its British-based squad beat Ireland 68-16 then drew 16-16 with Wales in October last year. The results saw the Reggae Warriors move from 29th to 17th in the world rankings.
Monteith said that although the team taking the field tomorrow will be mainly local-based, they have enough qualities to get a result against the defending champions.
"This team has trained hard and I'm expecting the players to leave everything on the field," Monteith Said. "It's never easy playing away from home but that also means we do not have as much pressure on us, if the guys stay relaxed and enjoy the game we should perform well."
Monteith added that the long-term of the JRLA is to qualify for its first Rugby League World Cup and these games against the USA, then Canada on August 26 will go a long way to preparing the team for qualification.
"We are building up basically to the Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers for 2019, which will see two countries from the Americas group progressing to the World Cup in 2021 in England," he said. "All our efforts right now are trying to find the best formula to ensure that Jamaica finally qualifies for the first global rugby league tournament in 2021."
The Reggae Warriors will give debuts to five players: Reinhardo Richards, Kareem Harris, Andrew Simpson, Owen Linton and Keta Bryan. However, veteran centre Renaldo Wade will be out of action because of a fractured jaw.
Monteith said that the Reggae Warriors will be set up to play a game based mainly on possession.
"We believe that we have a balanced team. The Americans though, are ranked number 10 in the world. They are the ones going to the World Cup. They have players with vast experience. A few former NRL (Australian National Rugby League) players are in there. So they're going to be very hard to crack at home but we're just hoping to grind the game out and to really limit the damage that they can do with their big boys in the middle of the field."
The Hawks will also have seven debutants among their ranks and assistant coach Sean Rutgerson said: "This is the first substantial step this year for domestic players to be considered for the World Cup in October and November."
Jamaica's 17-man squad reads: Andre McFarlane, Andrew Simpson, Leon Thomas, Nathan Campbell, Owen Linton (Duhaney Park Red Sharks), Kareem Harris, Keta Bryan (GC Foster College Lions), Brian Hutchinson (Jacksonville Axemen), Adrian Hall (Liguanea Dragons and University of the West Indies), Antonio Baker (Mico University College), Reinhardo Richards (Spanish Town Vikings), Omar Jones, Tyronie Rowe (Vauxhall Vultures), Demone McDougal, Romaen Campbell (Washington Blvd. Bulls), Nicholas Wright, Peter Tapper (Unattached)
Tomorrow's game kicks off at 4 p.m. Jamaica time.