Ollie Phillips inspires Jamaica Olympic dream as he coaches national side on Kingston trip

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Continuing his international rugby mission as he tours the globe with the Clipper Race, former England Rugby Sevens captain and IRB Player of the Year, GREAT Britain’s Ollie Phillips, visited the national team in Kingston yesterday to find out more about Jamaica’s Olympic rugby aspirations. 

Jamaica, the home of world-famous sprinter Usain Bolt, is renowned for its athletics prowess but the same is not yet said for its rugby reputation, currently ranked 80th in the IRB world rankings.  Alan Beckford, Director of the Jamaican Olympic Association explained: “The Jamaica Olympic Association hopes to have as many sports as possible represented at the highest level. We currently participate in approximately six sports at the Olympics and rugby is certainly one of the sports we hope to increase that number with.

“Rugby in Jamaica is a budding sport. The players are doing very well we hope to make it to the next level and players like Ollie who are at the top level can only inspire us to reach that level. We are hoping that through our development programme that if not Rio 2016, by Tokyo 2020 the programme will be developed enough for us to qualify for the Olympics. We would love for Ollie to come back to Jamaica and help continue to inspire us in this goal.”

Ollie led the team in various skills and training drills, including one with the Under 19s and the national side team ahead of their match against Mexico next week.

Speaking after the sessions, he expressed: “The track and field is where Jamaica is traditionally outstanding which lends itself well to rugby. Jamaica has a big talent pool of athletes. The biggest challenge is to educate and coach not only the players but the coaches as to how they can improve at rugby.

“The Olympic flame ignites hope for everyone that they can go on and compete. They are a small side so they are up and coming. The Rugby Sevens event in the 2016 Rio Olympics might be too soon, but Tokyo 2020 is a real target for them. I think they are serious,” Ollie added.

 “We looked at the lines of running and how they are trying to beat their opposition. The knowledge was transferred and they started to grasp it and then it showed through in their play which was very encouraging.

Keith Narrin, Chairman of the Jamaican Rugby Football Union said: “As a former England rugby captain, from the motherland of rugby, Ollie clearly knows the sport inside out and was able to teach us some valuable lessons. It meant a lot to us to have a man of Ollie’s reputation and achievements to come and inspire us.

“These players see themselves as the core of a group that will eventually take us to the Olympics so whatever tips he can give them, I know they appreciate it.”

Asked what he thought of Ollie’s sailing journey, Keith observed: “Hearing about his experience on the Clipper Race and how he arrived here in Jamaica is fascinating. I wish I could have done something like that. To take a break from rugby and of all the things to do, to go around the world sailing, it is amazing.”

Speaking on his past ten months on the Clipper Race, Ollie said his international rugby mission during his round the world yacht race experience had had a very positive reaction.

“It has been a massive honour for me to go and see how rugby is touching the globe while visiting countries on the race. You don’t always get to see how it is expanding round the world when you are playing in a league. It is an honour and privilege to see my sport from a different perspective while on the Clipper Race.

“Every activation or coaching session we do is slightly different in each port and adds value to what this race is all about, bringing international sporting communities together through a common ground. These activities also act as a welcome release and a change of scenery which makes the race even better for me.”

Ollie finished his day with dinner at Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records restaurant in Kingston and also fitted in a visit to the Bob Marley Museum.

Once he completes the Clipper 2013-14 Race in July 2014, Ollie hopes to re-join the national rugby team and hopes to play in the first rugby sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he plans to end his playing career.