Despite recent challenges to sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing’s for sure – rugby in Barbados is showing no signs of slowing down.

As the world begins to open back up to travel, sports fans and rugby enthusiasts visiting our shores can look forward to again enjoying regular rugby matches and training sessions, world-class tournaments, and even opportunities to play against the locals in various new ‘Open Day’ activities planned for this year.

Through a variety of local initiatives, Barbados continues to create opportunities for people of all ages to give this hard-hitting sport a try and is upgrading its facilities to expand its capacity to host international events and spectators; positioning the island to become one of the key nations driving the game in the region.

All this exciting progress is just another reason to make Barbados your premier sporting destination of choice for 2022 and beyond.

From little things, big things grow …

Known the official birthplace of Caribbean rugby, Barbados’ deep connection with rugby dates all the way back to visiting British troops in the 1900s.

Because of these military ties, the Garrison Savannah (close to the capital of Bridgetown) remains the official ‘home of rugby’ for diehard players and fans. Given this historical significance, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and key tourist attraction for visitors to Barbados.

Since its early days, rugby in Barbados has grown from a single team to now incorporate both Men’s and Women’s club and national teams, as well as youth programmes to encourage new talent and generate increased awareness of the sport island-wide. In 1964, the Barbados Rugby Football Union (BRFU) was formed as the governing body for rugby in Barbados and has expanded its global reach to impressively become a full member of World Rugby and Rugby Americas North (RAN), as well as of the national Barbados Olympic Association Inc. (BOA).
Interestingly, some of the most significant growth in rugby on the island has been in women’s rugby, which began in Barbados just over 15 years ago. Since then, our women have played against various touring teams and participated in regional and international tournaments, making considerable strides towards developing rugby in Barbados.

Our Barbados Senior Women’s team (called the ‘Bajan Pride’) has additionally hosted and played in the 2019 RAN 10s, as well as in the Women’s Elite Division at the Rugby Barbados World 7s (RBW7s) from 2017 – 2019. In 2018, the RAN Regional 7s Championships was also hosted in Barbados at Bellevue Plantation and Polo Grounds, with 23 Men’s and Women’s teams from the Caribbean and Mexico flying in to participate.

Several of our women’s players have also received prestigious international scholarships to universities such as Harvard, as well as other noteworthy achievements.
Getting kids into rugby …

Aiding the development of rugby on the island is World Rugby’s ‘Get Into Rugby’ (GIR) Programme which has an active local membership managed by GIR Barbados and headed by Director Kevyn Murrell (also VP of the BRFU).

The Programme introduces over 1000 children each year to the sport of rugby in Barbados and comprises a ‘Youth’ arm focusing on the development of young players in general, as well as a ‘Schools’ arm specifically focusing on primary and secondary school students.
However, since its inception in 2015, the Programme has grown exponentially particularly for girls evidenced by the launch of the first national interschool Girls Tag Rugby Competition in 2018 and an appearance at the Las Vegas Youth Olympic Games Qualifier by our U19 Girls Team in 2019.

2020 saw the exciting new development of a separate U19 Girls Programme which is open to any girl in Barbados wanting to give rugby a try, and plans continue for the establishment of a Girls Club Programme on the island.

GIR is also used as an important platform for young people to transition into international scholarship opportunities to develop their sporting skills, as well as their educational abilities, and broaden their horizons through the game of rugby.

Where are we now?

Contingent on the island’s COVID-19 protocols for contact sports, rugby in Barbados will continue to draw attention in 2022 from both locals and tourists alike.

Rugby tours to the island are growing in popularity, and each year bring eight to ten overseas teams to our shores for the perfect mix of fierce competition, fun socialising, and traditional Bajan charm.

The BRFU has hosted visiting teams from all over the region and the world and always welcomes touring members of the rugby fraternity with the firm support of the BOA and the local tourism industry. Our junior teams also entertain visiting overseas school sides with 15-a-side, 10-a-side and 7-a-side matches played from time to time.

As part of its vision to raise the calibre of the rugby facilities in Barbados, the BRFU recently upgraded its clubhouse and is looking to install lights around the pitch to allow for night matches as well as improve the overall quality of the playing surface with the installation of a state-of-the-art irrigation system.

You can get involved!

The bulk of our rugby matches are played weekly (usually on Saturdays) during the months of September to February at the Garrison Savannah. These games are FREE to watch and the atmosphere is always a hive of activity.

Rugby fans can also come along and watch our teams going through their paces at their training sessions held on various nights of the week and weekends.

To add to this, GIR Barbados are looking to start hosting ‘Fun Days’ to get anyone interested in rugby into the scrum for some fun and friendly competition. The best part? Anyone can join (including tourists), so stay tuned for 2022 details!

Looking forward to world-class action …

After a two-year hiatus, the highly-anticipated Rugby Barbados World 7s (RBW7s) Tournament will be back in 2022, scheduled for 2-3 December.

As the longest running Club Rugby 7s Tournament in the Caribbean, RBW7s attracts fierce Men’s and Women’s competition and is definite highlight on the international rugby events calendar.

It is also known as the highest paying Women’s Club Rugby 7s Tournament the world, with the prize money a massive US $20 000 in 2019, and is set to rival the likes of the Hong Kong 7s and Dubai 7s.

The event has previously brought over 30 world-class club rugby teams from countries like the USA, England, Canada, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, and St. Lucia to Barbados to fight it out for first place and teams are already eagerly awaiting its return so they can tour to Barbados again this summer.

At a more grassroots level, women’s rugby in Barbados will be one of the top priorities this year and will make a big comeback with more initiatives such as advertising, scholarships, training, tournaments, and women in leadership positions being rolled out to recruit and retain a more solid female player base and administrative pool for future generations to come.

Watch this space …

Note: For the most up-to-date rugby scheduling and event information, please email the BRFU or visit the BRFU Facebook page @rugbybarbados.