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 – part of the sport’s international weekend. The match-up between the 14th and 15th world ranked nations (kick off 3.30pm local time) will be the first between them played 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 USA Hawks are using the match as preparation for their final WC qualifier in November, when they will face the winners of South Africa v Cook Islands, who will meet in Wentworthville, Sydney on Friday night.
Caribbean Maritime University duo, Kevin Thomas and Chawn Henry are among Jamaica’s newcomers, the first representatives from that club, with Adrian Thomas, Mohenjo Thompson, Akeem Murray, Kile Nembhard, Roland Grey, Jenson Morris and Romario Bartley also in line to make 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 match 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 of themselves.
“Following the sudden death of national player, Leon Thomas two weeks ago, this has been the most difficult preparation for a game we’ve ever had.”
USA head coach Sean Rutgerson has included former Thailand captain, Charlie Jones in his selection, together with some of the stand-out performers from their inaugural Americas 9s win in Toronto recently, when they beat Jamaica 18-4 in the group stages.
Jacksonville’s Khalial Harris, who was a stand-out after only a handful of games, is included for the first time, while Brooklyn Kings supplies the highest number of players with six, including debutants Alex Foster and Dane Wilcoxen. Josh Jackson, Kevin Wathen and Randy Porter are the other newcomers.
“It is getting tough to choose the squad now,” Rutgerson noted, “as I am getting better coverage of players across the field. This is our first chance to see guys who have been performing well in the domestic competition step up to the next level, so that when we play in November, we will 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).