Crunch time is fast approaching for the three nations about to contest the Rugby League World Cup Atlantic Zone Qualifiers with all teams making final adjustments to their preparations. The USA, Jamaica and South Africa will vie for the right to take their place at the 2013 RLWC in England and Wales and like hosts USA, Jamaica is banking on a mix of domestic and overseas based players to get the job done.
The Jamaica Rugby League Association has named the strongest possible squad that it can for the crucial qualifying series to be held in Philadelphia October 15-23. “We have named a strong 30-man squad consisting of domestic and UK based players,” says Jamaica’s assistant coach Romeo Monteith. “There are a few guys that we would have liked to carry along but injuries have ruled them out.”
The reggae boys are due to open their campaign against the South Africa Rhinos, a team that is largely unknown going into the series. Monteith says while the Jamaican coaching staff has tried to scout the opposition in preparation for the game, it has proved to be somewhat difficult given that not much is known about them. “I have met their coach Steven van Zyl and he is a great guy,” he adds. “SARL do not put out much video on YouTube etc., so we really do not know what standard they are at, however, I do expect they will be a very good team with a good chance of winning as well. “I think they will move the ball around comfortably because of their rugby union background. I'm expecting them to be really physical as well in the middle of the park.”
Regardless of the outcome of that match, Jamaica will be looking to turn the tables on the USA Tomahawks in the final game of the series. The US has had the wood on the Jamaicans beating them both times they have played since they began their rivalry in 2009. In a match that could very well determine who gets the Atlantic Zone seed in Pool D alongside Wales and Cook Islands in 2013, the assistant coach thinks his charges will need to lift their game in several areas against the Tomahawks for the full 80 minutes.
“We just need to be more disciplined when the going gets tough,” comments Monteith. “I think our players need to concentrate harder in the last 20 minutes of the game to give us a fair shot at winning. “In addition I would like to see us move the ball around the park a little better as it’s difficult for us to out muscle the USA in the middle of the field.”
Despite what appears to be a big ask for the Jamaicans to advance to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Monteith says he and his team are confident of putting in a good showing. “We have as good a chance as any of the three. All teams are on par,” says Monteith. “I think the USA are clear favorites as hosts and as the highest ranked country of the three. “They have defeated us twice before so we see them as the biggest threat, but first we have to get past South Africa and we know that will be a mammoth task.”
RLWCQ Schedule - Philadelphia:
GAME 1 - USA v South Africa (October 15, 2011)
GAME 2 - South Africa v Jamaica (October 19, 2011)
GAME 3 - USA v Jamaica (October 23, 2011)