Jamaica has named nine debutants and USA seven in their squads for Saturday’s historic meeting at the Mona Bowl, University of West Indies, Kingston (kick off 3.30pm local time) - which is part of the sport’s international weekend. The match-up between the 14th and 15th world ranked nations will be the first between them on Caribbean soil.
In their previous full meeting, in Jacksonville, Florida, last year, the Reggae Warriors’ triumph saw them qualify for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, joining the final stages of the global tournament for the first time. The Hawks are using the match as preparation for their final WC qualifier in November, when they will face the winners of South Africa and Cook Islands, who meet in Wentworthville, Sydney on Friday night.
Caribbean Maritime University duo Kevin Thomas and Chawn Henry are among the Jamaican newcomers, the first representatives from the club, with Adrian Thomas, Mohenjo Thompson, Akeem Murray, Kile Nembhard, Roland Grey, Jenson Morris and Romario Bartley also in line for their bows.
Veterans Renaldo Wade and Tyronie Rowe are out of contention and playmaker Adrian Hall is also unavailable after being involved in a serious car accident on his way to training in April.
“Having defeated the Hawks in the World Cup qualifiers, we are acutely aware that revenge is on the minds of our visitors,” said JRLA head coach and director of rugby Romeo Monteith. “They have assembled a powerful team and we will start as underdogs in this one as we are without the services of any of our professional players. The boys are looking forward to the challenge and will give a good account. It’s been the most difficult preparation for a game we’ve ever had after the sudden passing of national player, Leon Thomas, two weeks ago.”
USA head coach Sean Rutgerson has included former Thailand captain Charlie Jones in his selection, together with some of the standout performers who won the inaugural Americas 9s in Toronto recently, where they beat Jamaica 18-4 in the group stages.
Jacksonville’s Khalial Harris who was a standout after only a handful of games is included for the first time with Brooklyn Kings providing the most representatives with six players including debutants Alex Foster and Dane Wilcoxen. Josh Jackson, Kevin Wathen and Randy Porter are the other newcomers.
“It is getting tough to choose as I am getting better coverage of all players now,” Rutgerson noted. “This is our chance to see guys that have been performing well in the domestic competition step up to the next level so that when we play in November we know who is up to the standard and we’re not guessing.”
JAMAICA 20 MAN SQUAD:
Chawn Henry, Kevin Thomas (Caribbean Maritime University), Antonio Baker (Cedar Grove Cyclones), Andrew Simpson, Fabion Turner, Jermaine Pinnock, Kenneth Walker, Khamisi Mckain, Marvin Thompson, Ryan Grant (Duhaney Park Red Sharks), Adrian Brown, Chevaughn Bailey, Steve Miller (GC Foster College Lions) Roland Grey (Jamaica Defene Force) Akeem Murray, Romario Bartley (Liguanea Dragons and University of the West Indies) Jenson Morris, Kile Nembhard (University Of Technology), Lawrence Drummond, Mohenjo Thompson (Washington Blvd. Bulls)
USA 17-MAN SQUAD
Sean Hunt, Nick Newlin (Atlanta Rhinos), Brandon Anderson, Alex Foster, Randy Porter, Jamil Robinson, Dane Wilcoxen, Sterling Wynn (Brooklyn Kings), Khalil Harris, Josh Jackson, Charlie Jones, Jon Purnell, Kevin Wathen (Jacksonville Axemen), Kyle Denham, Tristan Sylk (Philadelphia Fight), Cody Blackwell, Bart Longchamp (Tampa Mayhem)