The Welshman pursuing a dream with Jamaica

Wes Cunliffe
Wes Cunliffe rejoined Newport RFC from Ebbw Vale in 2015

The Jamaica bobsleigh team's unlikely exploits at the 1988 Winter Olympics were immortalised in the film Cool Runnings.

Whether a Hollywood film will be made should Jamaica's rugby union sevens team qualify for next year's Commonwealth Games remains to be seen.

But the team's Welsh-born wing Wes Cunliffe has no doubts who should portray him if that were to happen.

"Maybe Denzel Washington could play me," Cunliffe joked.

"Jamaican Bobsleigh team, who are they? We'd be the new boys on the block wouldn't we?"

For the 30-year-old Newport RFC player representing Jamaica at next year's Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in Australia would be a dream come true.

"It's a rollercoaster story for me," Cunliffe said.

"Rugby's a great sport. Rugby saved my life from crime and it's a good turnaround for me.

Jamaica Sevens in action at the 2017 Hong King Sevens
Jamaica Sevens in action against Tonga at the 2017 Hong King Sevens

"And what a great story it would be if a developing nation could qualify for the Commonwealth Games."

Cunliffe, from Pill, qualifies for Jamaica through his grandparents, who were born on the Caribbean Island.

It was while he was playing for the invitational Samurai Bulldogs Sevens side that the opportunity to represent Jamaica came about

Cunliffe was approached by James Bailey, the former England Sevens player and a member of the England Women's Sevens coaching team.

Bailey also coaches the Jamaica Sevens side - also known as the Crocs - and has setup a UK base for Jamaican players.

"He asked me what my heritage was," Cunliffe recalls.

"He said would I be interested in getting involved and I said yes. I couldn't say no.

"I had to jump on the opportunity. It's international rugby and I thought 'why not?'

"Our biggest aim is the Commonwealth Games and I believe we can do it. I believe we've got the players to do it

"We've got a few boys from the UK and we've also got boys back home from Jamaica and we've all come together.

"This year it's about getting together, knowing our style of rugby and what we want to play."

James BaileyWas
Former London Irish and Wasps wing James Bailey approached Wes Cunliffe about representing Jamaica

Jamaica narrowly missed out on last year's Rio Olympics, but qualified the Hong Kong 7s, taking part in the World Series Qualifiers.

Cunliffe missed Hong Kong because of a shoulder injury, but hopes to be involved in a number of Sevens tournaments in the UK over the next few months.

And it is not impossible that he could come up against Newport RFC team-mate Elliot Frewen, a member of Wales Sevens team, at next April's Commonwealth Games.

"There would be a lot of banter if it happens," Cunliffe said.

"We both play for Newport, but I'd be wearing the black, yellow and green and he would be wearing the red.

"If that was the case, so be it, but we're all good friends.

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Commonwealths ‘in the back of my mind’

"It's nice to learn off Elliott as he's an up and coming sevens player and he deserves to go on the World Series."

Both players will be part of the Newport sevens side competing at the Heineken National Sevens at Llanelli's Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, 27 May.

Newport, who won the Plate in 2016, face Bedwas in their opening game of a tournament which features the 16 Welsh Premiership sides.

"The talent that we've got, Shay Smith and Elliot Frewin, are involved with the Welsh squad so we've got some form of a chance," Cunliffe told BBC Wales.

"We want to win the cup this year, but any form of silverware would be nice."

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