Commonwealth Youth Games: Manx team face first international

By Mark EdwardsBBC Sport
Isle of Man Commonwealth Youth Games Rugby 7s Team
More than 60 players have been competing to be on the Isle of Man team

Twelve boys from the Isle of Man will realise their dream on Saturday, when they face Australia in the Rugby 7s at the Commonwealth Youth Games.

The team have been working towards the Games for more than three years and their opening match will be their first ever international.

Liam Murphy, 17, will captain the Isle of Man side throughout the competition.

"We've given this tournament our total commitment and we can't wait to face the likes of Australia," he said.

The Manx team will also play Scotland and Canada in their group.

The second group will be contested by England, Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa.

Create a team

The decision to enter a Manx team in the Games was taken back in 2006, by the Manx Rugby Football Union.

The Isle of Man's rugby development officer, Ian Williams was tasked with producing an action plan to create a squad of 16-18 year-olds capable of competing with the likes of Australia and England.

Mike Dee was appointed as the team's manager and the first trials were held soon after with a number of the island's leading coaches taking charge of the players' development.

Williams says there was a great deal of interest from the uptake: "We started holding monthly sessions and we had more than 60 players at the start, with only 12 places to fill.

"We were honest with the players about the amount of hard work required to compete with the top Commonwealth nations, it was always going to be a huge challenge.

After 12 months, the squad had been whittled down to 40 and was cut to 20 the following year, with weekly training sessions now in place.

Williams continued: "The reduction was down to the players' own choice, some felt the commitment was too much, others could not maintain the fitness we required.

"We knew that we still had our most difficult decisions ahead with only 12 places available, there was always going to be disappointment.

Fine margins

The final squad was announced in July, with one reserve named in case of injuries.

The Manx team will face Australia, Scotland and Canada

Williams continued: "The intensity has really stepped up and the coaching has centred around developing the skills and techniques needed to play 7s rugby to the standard required on the international stage.

"It's been a learning curve for the players and the coaching staff.

Murphy, who attends Ballakermeen High School, will captain the side for the tournament: "To lead the Isle of Man out at the Bowl will be a very proud moment for me.

"We've never played an international fixture, so to start against Scotland and Australia will be incredible.

"I know that every member of the team will give me total commitment for every second they are on the pitch," he added.

The Isle of Man will play all three of their group matches on 10 September, starting with Scotland at 16:20 BST.

Each game will be 14 minutes long and will be played at the newly refurbished Bowl stadium in Douglas.

Manx Rugby 7s Team

Andrew Evans, Ben Kelly, Daniel Bonwick, James Olerenshaw, Jordan Hogan, Mark Oldfield, Nathan Pierce, Phil Cringle, Liam Murphy (captain), Conor Stephens, Duncan MacGregor, Alex Sharpe