Lending expertise to the minnows
July 11, 2012
Lewis Moody has handed on some of his rugby knowledge to Bermuda © Getty Images
The battle is on for a place at the top of the International Rugby Board rankings ahead of December's draw for the 2015 World Cup, but a country at the other end of the spectrum of just 21 square miles has already overcome the first hurdle in the path to qualification - thanks in part to the work of a former England captain.
Currently positioned 49 in the IRB rankings, with rugby powerhouses such as the Ivory Coast, Uganda and Sweden above them, Bermuda have just taken the 2012 North America Caribbean Rugby Association Championship Final with an 18-0 win over Guyana but will have to overcome the likes of the USA Eagles and Canada if they are to take their place among the 20 other teams looking to take the World Cup on English soil in three years time. While it is hugely unlikely they will be there, Lewis Moody has seen enough of the rugby on Bermuda to insist that the country has a bright future, but such pipe dreams are reliant on them getting the required funding and expertise.
Moody retired from the game back in March and is yet to confirm the direction his career will now take. With 71-caps to his name and having been one of the lucky few to skipper England, he will surely have no shortage of offers when he makes his decision. But after his time with Bermuda, he can now add 'international coach' to his impressive CV.
"I was asked to speak at a dinner over in Bermuda by an old friend of mine and it also provided an opportunity to visit some of my wife's relatives who lived out there," Moody told ESPN. "Since I was out there, I asked whether I could help out with the national side and so I went to a training session with the Bermudan national side on the Tuesday before their big game with Guyana and also did some coaching with the under-19s after it.
"The game itself was very good - they have a lot of different nationalities in the Bermudan side with a few of the South African-born players helping out with some coaching. But it's an amateur sport, none of the players or coaches are paid. The players and coaches all have full-time jobs elsewhere so it comes down to a high level of personal dedication to get the team playing as well as it can do. Considering how little funding they have, I was impressed with the standard and while there's always areas of the game that can be worked on, the general and enthusiasm of the players was superb."
Moody is now interested in using some of his 17 years of professional rugby experience to generate more support and funding for the Bermudan national side. One option would be to forge a link with a side over in the UK with a view to bringing over some of the better young prospects to train but one other option, due to Bermuda's close proximity to the United States, would be USA Rugby offering some of the more promising talents a chance to train in America.
But while link-ups will help develop individual talent, the country still needs help developing a firm infrastructure. While Moody was out in Bermuda, Fijian Sevens legend Waisele Serevi was on the island hosting a coaching camp and it needs more ventures such as this to help drum up interest for the sport in an otherwise cricket and football dominated country - something that has not escaped Moody's attention.
"Countries like Bermuda really need help from the rugby powerhouses," Moody said. "They need kit, infrastructure and expertise to help aid the huge levels of enthusiasm. The issue with Bermuda is that, due to its geographical position, any game that they have to travel to ends up being a tour.
"That requires a vast deal of funding and that's one of the big difficulties facing Bermudan rugby - a lot of the lads have to stump up the fees themselves. Another priority has to be improving the level of expertise that is working with the side. Yes kit is important but player development will lead to an increase of funding from bodies like the IRB."
The World Cup has seen relative rugby minnows Portugal and Uruguay qualify for the tournament in the last ten years and while they have struggled to compete with the giants of the international game, they have acquitted themselves well.
With the majority of the senior Bermudan side made up of players who are taking up the game after a 10-year hiatus or expats on the island, the current crop of youngsters will give reason for optimism within staunch Bermudian circles. The huge majority of the under-19 side are Bermudan-born with Moody describing their attitude as "spot on".
Lewis Moody is still plotting the next move in his career © Getty Images
But while the difference between Bermudan and England's level of rugby may be akin to an amateur side up against the All Blacks, Moody has seen enough promise on the island to focus some of his time to helping develop the country's rugby pedigree. He is yet to decide on where his next port of call will be post-retirement but after hearing the passion he still has for the game, specifically with reference to helping some of the sport's minnows develop, then it seems likely that Moody's influence will continue to be felt across rugby.
"I'm choosing my next steps wisely and slowly and trying to figure out my path. I love rugby and I do have a real passion for it so I will be involved to some degree. I'm just trying to work out how much I will be involved over the next 12 months - I have a number of projects that encompass many different areas whether they are business, sport or media.
"There're many things I want to try and hopefully by the end of that 12 months I'll work out what direction I want to head in. But I'm in no mad rush to hang my hat on any particular peg to say this is what I am now and this is what I want to do."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.