Reggae Warriors tune up for Rugby League World Cup
Jamaica’s plans for making their debut at this year’s Rugby League World Cup take another step forward when the British-based squad members get together for what coach Jermaine Coleman describes as an “important training camp” in Leeds, England today.
The Reggae Warriors are the first Caribbean nation to make the latter stages of the competition, which takes place in England between October 15 and November 19, having beaten off the challenge of the United States and Canada in qualifying.
Coleman expects up to 30 players to attend this weekend’s activities, having taken advantage of a break in action among the three professional and semi-professional leagues in the United Kingdom to facilitate internationals between England and a Combined Nations All Stars and Wales against France.
“We had hoped to arrange a game ourselves, but that wasn’t possible so this is an ideal opportunity to get us all together so we can do some classroom sessions, look at shape and structure and then spend a little bit of time on the field working on what we have just spoken about,” explained Coleman, who played himself until taking up the role of coach during a transitional period at Championship (second tier) club London Broncos this season.
“It’s a chance in the afternoon to do some media content and some team more bonding.
“All of those present will be British-based, but we hope to include some younger lads, from the academy system, who will get a chance to meet the group and some of the staff.
“It will all be ‘heritage’ boys as unfortunately the cost would be too great to bring players over from the island.
“But there are potentially four or six players from Jamaica’s domestic competition whom we hope to bring into our extended squad, which will be reduced to 25 before the World Cup commences.
“Improving the squad is something we are always looking to do, but only if it’s something that benefits the group.”
Winger Abevia McDonald is a case in point, currently in his second season with London Skolars, having been introduced to the game at Excelsior Community College in Kingston and also played for Liguanea Dragons and Duhaney Park before moving across the Atlantic.
“A massive part of our identity is how well we have bonded together and the mentality,” continued Coleman who was born in Leeds and is now vice principle at a secondary school in North London.
“Abevia played (and scored) at the weekend and he will be along.
“Lloyd White (who currently plays for French Super League side Toulouse Olympique and represented Wales on 15 occasions) has joined the group and we potentially have a couple of other Super league players joining.
“We were quite close to getting Kallum Watkins (ex-Leeds Rhinos and now Salford centre, capped 26 times for England) over the line but he has now been selected in the England train-on squad so we will have to see whether he makes the final cut.
“And there is another Super League player we are talking to.”
Another ex-player Romeo Monteith, who is currently based with his family in both Kingston and Canada, is Director of Rugby and will link with the team nearer the competition.
Jamaica are due to face the might of 2008 World Cup winners New Zealand, Lebanon and Ireland during the group stages of the competition which was postponed last year due to worries over COVID-19.