HAVE you heard the one about the Scot with the Welsh name who is playing Sevens for Jamaica? It may sound like the start of a bad joke but Rhodri Adamson is entirely serious in helping the Jamaican Sevens side to reach its full potential. Oh, and if the name makes you doubt his heritage, his father still sports a Scottish accent after growing up in Bathgate and his two brothers are ‘Hamish’ and ‘Angus’, the latter captaining the London Scottish Lions (the Exiles’ amateur side).
Adamson is a multi-skilled, versatile, goal kicking, scrum-half/full-back who played for Richmond in the Championship, much to his brother’s disgust, but now turns out for Cambridge in England’s National One, a semi-professional set-up and a decent standard of rugby.
Naturally enough given his heritage, Adamson grew up dreaming of playing for Scotland but ended up turning out for England schoolboys and students before, thanks to his mother being born in Jamaica, finding himself the only white boy in the island’s national sevens squad.
He takes the inevitable jokes with good humour, insisting that the official time keepers will prove that he is not the slowest in the side … whatever his team-mates may argue. In fact, Adamson becomes a little uneasy talking about skin colour at all, as you can well understand, because he finds himself amongst the majority in the Jamaican squad where it really doesn’t matter as he explains.
“The first question I always get is ‘how do you qualify?’ And you do get people laughing and joking about being the only white man in the team. But, to be honest, most of the stuff comes from people outside the squad rather than the other players.
“Anyway, there is another split in the squad because I would say that about 75% of the players are English born with Jamaican heritage and just a few players actually live in Jamaica.
“The national motto is ‘out of many, one people’ and that is how I see it. There is a bit of divide between the guys in Jamaica and the English guys, not amongst the players but from some officials and suchlike on the island, a little resentment at the overseas guys and obviously I am at the forefront of that because some people think it odd, a white guy playing for Jamaica, but I think it’s just wrong to talk about the skin colour with regard to selection. It’s completely silly.”
Adamson sees that exile/domestic split slowly changing as rugby standards on the island play catch-up with what those brought through the English system can offer. At 27 he hopes to play his part in mentoring the next generation but for now the reality is that Jamaica is highly dependent on overseas players … not unlike Samoa.
He has Mark Zukerberg to thank for his induction into Jamaican rugby. He shared a mutual Facebook friend with team captain Conan Osborne, who posted a message looking for Jamaican qualified rugby players that the mutual friend shared and Adamson clocked. A few training sessions later and he found himself playing in the Hong Kong Sevens in 2017 where … Jamaica didn’t win a single match.
“I remember the team talks ahead of my first ever outing,” says Adamson. “Our goal was to score points against every opponent, that was the total of our ambition back then, that is how backward we were.”
Things are getting better. Jamaica have hired a Scottish Sevens coach in Steve Lewis, once of West of Scotland and now living in New York.
Lewis recently led the Jamaican squad on a trip to Uruguay and Chile where narrow losses to Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea were balanced by a win over Portugal, who were part of the World Series just a few years ago.
Results are improving and, as you might imagine, Jamaica is not short of pace in the outer channels, but could maybe do with a few more jackals at the breakdown and a bit more Sevens’ savvy with the ball in hand, which is where Adamson proves his worth.
While he flits between 9 and 15 in the 15-a-side game, the playmaker swaps between 9 and 10 in sevens, to best utilise his undoubted expertise in game management.
No one knows quite what the coronavirus will allow but Adamson already has his sights set on the next Challenger Series and, if successful, the subsequent tilt at the big time that is open to all who qualify for the annual Hong Kong Sevens.
Other than that, there is perhaps just one ambition left unfulfilled.
“I am sure that at some point I will turn out beside my brother Angus at London Scottish Lions. We have had the conversation,” and more than once, judging by Rhodri’s world weary tone. “Just not right now.”