The TT Schools Rugby Union has selected a 26-man squad to play four matches in a seven-day tour of Ontario-part of an ongoing initiative to get prospective future national players attuned to the trials and pressure of the game at international level.
“This team is really the best out of the schools league,” the team’s assistant manager Ronnie Annandsingh said, underlining the fact that they were operating within limits, as the schools arm of the governing body, the TT Rugby Football Union (TTRFU). “We are hoping that after the schools league, that they join a club and eventually go on to play Under-19 and Under-21 in the TTRFU Senior Division.”
The players were drawn from a wide spread: Fatima, St Mary’s, QRC, Belmont Boys, Tranquillity, St Anthony’s, Mucurapo, Maple Leaf, the International School, St George’s College (Barataria) and St Benedict’s (La Romain).
“We’ve selected the best players out of the north, and also from a south-east school select. The schools union has no league in south as yet, but this (coming) season, we are starting a league at under-14 level,” added Annandsingh, who is also the senior TT squad manager.
They all had to train in the mud and tall grass of an uncut section of the Savannah, opposite the Botanical Gardens, avoiding fitness enthusiasts who were jogging around what used to be the “sand track.” “That happens at senior level, with Sevens rugby,” the former player continued, even as team manager Graham Chin broke into a smile, perhaps, of resignation. “The best we can do is hope that some point there is a home for rugby; but for now, the reality is the reality. The important thing is that we still get the commitment from the players to come out and train.”
Another challenge, common to most amateur sports played in TT, is funding. The budget for the Ontario trip is $402,000; even so, they are now into the third successive annual trip Canada with the schoolboys, after playing in Barbados in 2011 and 2012. Much of the funding has come from corporate TT including the Newsday. Annandsingh believes it is critical to the survival of the sport in TT and the development of a core of competent international players.
“We are trying to give the fellas the exposure. This is really a development tour. To increase their basic skills, how to play against opponents in a particular situation, how to react,” he said. “We are giving them that opportunity. The more games you play, the more practice games you have, the better you will become eventually.”
They have less than a week before leaving for Ontario; the tour runs from August 7-15.