The Cayman Island side’s victory in the recent Caribbean Under 19 Championship has vindicated its government's decision to support the youth rugby programme in the country.
It has been suggested in Cayman that Rugby is not mainstream enough to deserve strong government backing, but the success of the country's youth in beating Mexico to finish top of the region would seem to refute that assertion.
The side will now go on to compete at the second IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy at Under 20 level next year.
There to greet the victorious youngsters as they arrived at Owen Roberts International Airport were Kurt Tibbetts, the Leader of Government Business and Alden McLaughlin, Minister of Sport and Education.
“This is absolutely marvellous,” said McLaughlin. “The development of Rugby in Cayman depends on how well the youth do and the government, over the course of the last three years, has put significant funding into Rugby by assisting the Cayman Islands Rugby Union here with an annual grant.
“It’s paid dividends which is unbelievable really - in such a short time we’re the champions of the Caribbean. That’s a marvellous, marvellous achievement.
“Beating teams like Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico with the population the size of Cayman is amazing. These are all Caymanian kids so no one can say we’ve imported people, which is often an accusation raised in relation to other sports. These are our home–grown boys. I’m absolutely delighted," he added.
One argument put forward by most critics of the extra funding for rugby is that the sport is relatively new, a claim McLaughlin dismisses.
“I played Rugby when I was in high school and Rugby’s been around here before that," he said.
“It’s always been perceived as a ‘white expanse’ sport so it’s great to see that it’s our young men who have come up through the system who have done so well to become Caribbean champions.
“I think this will have a huge impact on attitudes generally to Rugby and hopefully, more and more of our young people will take it up as a sport."
Earlier this year Grand Cayman hosted and played in the very first qualifying match for Rugby World Cup 2011. The Webb Ellis Cup was taken to schools and clubs and all schools were invited to the games in a bid to increase interest among the indigenous youth. Such initiatives seem to be paying dividends for the country's Techincal Director Richard Adams.
"This victory is a momentous occasion for rugby in Cayman and without doubt the most impressive achievement in the Union's history," admitted Adams.
"Many of these players have come through our youth development programme and worked hard for three years to get to this stage."