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The USA and Canada are heavily favored in the Men’s NACRA 7s and World Cup Qualifier this weekend in Ottawa.

These are, after all, the two teams that finished 1 and 2 in the last 7s World Cup Qualifier (won by the USA on the final play of the game). But there are a few teams who could throw a monkey wrench into the plans.

The first team to worry about is Jamaica.

“We know nothing about them,” said USA Head Coach Alex Magleby. “They could have had someone like Usain Bolt training with them. We don’t know.”

Bolt probably makes a bit more money running track, but everyone knows the enormous sprinting depth of Jamaica, so a speed 7s game should fit them well.

If Jamaica surprises the USA in pool play, that could cause all sorts of problems, because it would mean Canada and the USA would meet in the semifinals, not the final, meaning one of them would not make the World Cup.

Same goes for Canada’s main upset threat, Mexico. The Serpientes have been getting progressively better over the years, recruiting faster, more skilled young athletes and taking apart regional competition with solid teamwork.

Mexico is led by captain Juan Pablo Andrade, who is a smart player and leader, and player-coach Simon Pierre. In 2011 Mexico beat Jamaica 7-0 to finish 3rd in NACRA (USA and Canada did not participate).

Mexico will be up against it when playing Canada. The Canadians have a bunch of big bodies – they don’t have blazing pace so they win with power, and they are far bigger and stronger than most NACRA opponents.

Also in Pool B is the Bahamas. They, like Jamaica, have a deep reservoir or fast athletes to draw from, and if teams make mistakes, they have the pace to punish those mistakes.

“Our starting seven is as good as anyone else’s in the region,” team manager Elystan Miles told the Bahamas Tribune. “We have an excellent mix of experience with some talented under 20 players that have joined us for the first time. But this nucleus has been together for years so they know what to expect and we know what to expect from them.”

They are serious about their chances. So should be Bermuda, which won the NACRA 15s championship this year.

In Pool C, certainly things are up in the air, but it’s worth noting that Guyana has dominated 7s in the region in recent years. Big, fast, and sometimes a little bit nasty, the Guyana squad is seeded #1 in Pool C and will have to get through Canada to make the final. They are capable of doing that, in that Guyana and the USA are the two teams that can stand up to Canada’s physicality.

Led by Claudius Butts and Ryan Gonsalves, Guyana knows how to play 7s, but were surprised by Mexico in the Pan-Am games.

Trinidad & Tobago, Cayman Islands, and Barbados all have speed, but will they have the power to stand up to Guyana?
Barbados has several players who play rugby in the UK, giving them support in decision-making.
Cayman Islands did play in the Victoria International 7s and Vancouver 7s as well as other tournaments and an academy.

Director of Rugby Richard Adams said the preparation, financed by sponsors and the Cayman Islands government, has been very beneficial.

“We were able to bring in [world-class] coach for fitness and conditioning, [former Canadian international] Dan Baugh, a few months ago. Dan spent a week working with Kes Wright our local Rugby Development Officer and Strength and Conditioning Sevens coach. Between them they tested our guys, set programs and delivered training sessions which Kes has maintained and improved upon each week allowing the guys to reach new levels of fitness. Dan also conducted sessions on best practice training at the highest levels for the program and this has meant a marked improvement in the way we deliver our sevens training programs especially with an emphasis of the team training for almost the entirety of the session at match intensity.”

Longtime rugby fans will also recognize the name of their coach – former Canada captain and professional Morgan Williams. So Cayman, again, is thinking seriously.

From our standpoint, it looks like the USA, Canada, and Guyana will all win their pools. Mexico will likely finish second in Pool B and play the #2 team out of Pool C. That could be any one of Cayman, T&T or Barbados, and as a result it’s likely we will see semifinals matchups of Guyana v. Canada and Mexico v. USA.

That should set up a USA v. Canada final. But once again, if those favored teams take things for granted, they could be in trouble.

Bahamas Roster
1. Andrew Bain
2. Duran Beadle
3. Andrew Kemp
4. Charles Smith
5. Dan Woodside
6. Le-Var Boyd
7. Dorian Butler
8. Kacy Charlton
9. Mico Cooper
10. Jamaal Curry
11. Edwin Joseph
12. Michael Watkins
Coach - Dorian Roach

Barbados Roster
1. Antony Bayne-Charles
2. Dario Stoute
3. Dwight Forde
4. Dominic Peters
5. Jae Bowen
6. Phil Lucas
7. Jordan Gomez
8. Marcus Harewood
9. Leon Driscoll - Captain
10. Liam Cooper-King
11. Stefan Taricska
12. Sean Ward
13. Tom Lucas

Bermuda Roster
1. Tom Healy - Captain
2. Somers Brewin
3. Aldo Campbell
4. Tom Bassett
5. Justin Collis
6. Jack Ellison
7. Steven Husbands
8. Dylan O’Kelly-Lynch
9. Antonio Perinchief-Leader
10. Darren Richardson
11. Patrick Richardson
12. Neville Zuill
Coach - Lawrence Bird

Canada Roster
1. Nanyak Dala – Captain
2. Sean White
3. Chauncey O'Toole
4. Conor Trainor
5. John Moonlight
6. Tyler Ardron
7. Jeff Hassler
8. Phil Mack
9. Ciaran Hearn
10. Harry Jones
11. Sean Duke
12. Connor Braid

Head Coach Geraint John

Cayman Islands Roster
1. Venasio Tokatokavanua
2. Dow Travers
3. Philip Fourie
4. Garrett Conolly
5. Edward Westin
6. Josh Clark
7. Mike Wilson
8. Joel Clark
9. Robbie Cribb
10. Jon Murphy
11. Simon Crompton
12. Morgan Hayward

Coach - Morgan Williams

Guyana Roster
1. Jason Tyrell
2. Allain Crawford
3. Rondell McArthur
4. Vallon Adams
5. Clyde Prowell
6. Dwayne Schroeder
7. Richard Staglon
8. Dillion Downer
9. Ryan Gonsalves - Captain
10. Christopher Singh
11. Ronald Mayers
12. Theodore Henry
13. Peabo Hamilton
14. Claudius Butts
15. Ryan Hinkson

Jamaica Roster

Mexico Roster
1. Juan Pablo Andrade (C)
2. Jorge Bermudez
3. Roberto Calderón
4. Miguel Carner
5. Alejandro Chávez
6. Nazareno El Hom
7. Christian Henning
8. Fernando Herrejon
9. Pascal Nadaud
10. Simon Pierre
11. Rodrigo Ramos
12. Gerardo Gutiérrez

 Coach – Simon Pierre

St. Vincent & the Grenadines Roster

Trinidad & Tobago Roster
1. Anthony Lopez
2. Kelson Figaro
3. Joseph Quashie
4. James Phillip
5. Andrew Taylor
6. Phillip Rogers
7. Agboola Silverton
8. Kurt Quashie
9. Daryl Scott
10. Stefan Cooksammy
11. Tariq Cheekes
12. Keishon Walker
Coach - Larry Mendez

USA Roster
1. Hawley, Colin
2. Test, Zach
3. Palefau, Mike
4. Suniula, Shalom (Captain)
5. Enosa, Tai
6. Hume, Luke
7. Unufe, Maka
8. Halalilo, Jack
9. Mokate, Taylor
10. Tiberio, Pete
11. Mauer, Rocco
12. Isles, Carlin
Coach – Alex Magleby