The Jamaica Reggae Warriors will go into their encounter with the England Knights on Friday at Castleford with eight players unavailable to selectors according to Jamaica Director of Rugby and Senior Head Coach Romeo Monteith.
“I am hopeful we can give a good account of ourselves, but man, it has been a difficult last few weeks!,” Monteith told Everything Rugby League.
“We had 28 players available for us a few weeks ago and now we only have 20 fit players due mostly to injuries in the last few rounds of the various English competitions.
“I know the boys are looking forward to coming together again and representing Jamaica so I know they will give a good effort against a quality young English team.”
The England Knights team represents the future of England Rugby League. Teenager Will Pryce, the son of former Great Britain international Leon Pryce is part of the squad.
“Playing the Knights is always a good matchup for us, they are a quality team that forces us to step up another level as they are all full-time players. As an emerging rugby league nation, we get very few opportunities to play against teams that have all full-time players and so this type of test is a yardstick for where we are and where we want to reach,” Monteith said.
The match to be played at Castleford’s Mend-A-Hose Jungle will be a testimonial for Cas Tiger and Reggae Warrior Jordan Turner. Turner has previously represented the England Knights.
“Having Jordan as part of our family is massive for us, his experience and stature in the game can only raise our own standards. We are proud to play a role in his testimonial and help give recognition to his contribution to the sport.”
The squad to play England Knights followed by Scotland a week later includes one domestic produced player in Abevia McDonald who played for Liguanea Dragons and Excelsior Community College in Kingston, Jamaica and now plies his trade at London Skolars.
Monteith is adamant that if it wasn’t for the global pandemic there would be more domestic players included in the squad.
“Had it not been for Covid, we would have had 4-6 domestic players involved in these games against England and Scotland. The pandemic is still raging in Jamaica and our competitions and training have been suspended for 17 months now. It has not been easy, and the domestic lads are gutted not being able to prepare and travel for these games.
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“We have always provided opportunities for both domestic and UK professionals to have a pathway in representing Jamaica, this commitment has and will never change. There will be domestic based players in the World Cup, and we are proud to see Abevia as a product of our domestic scene represented in the Knights clash.
“Pre covid we were averaging 900-1000 rugby league players annually between juniors and seniors. We had just launched our female full contact program as well, so it has been very disheartening to see the impact of Covid on the sport. We will do our best to recover, understandably, in these times when Jamaicans are losing their jobs and dying, amateur sport is the least concern for many.”
The matches against England Knights and Scotland will serve as a foundation for Jamaica to compete in the Rugby League World Cup due to commence in October 2022. Along with Greece, the Reggae Warriors will participate in their first men’s World Cup.
“There are three main goals for us as a team heading into the World Cup.
“We want to deliver performances that our country and supporters can be proud of. Therefore, being a competitive unit is very important to us. We have some tough teams, and it would be great to get a few results. If we made the quarters, that would be brilliant of course. Like any team we will go into games to get a win, regardless of who the opposition is.
“Secondly, we would like to see the nucleus of our team for the next 5 years emerge from this campaign. Continuity is important to us, so we want to identify the players who will take us forward, whether they are in the 24-man squad or our wider selection of players.
“Next, we want to deliver great value to our corporate partners who choose to believe in this team and journey – Reggae Reggae Sauce, SmileFast, Age Partnership, PlayerLayer, Coco Fuzion 100, Twisted and IMA. Out of this campaign we want the corporate world to recognise even more that the Reggae Warriors brand, and brand Jamaica, is a winner.”
England Knights vs Jamaica Reggae Warriors Friday 15 October Mend-A-Hose Jungle Castleford. Kick off 7:45pm (local time).