Friday, July 30, 2010 - Submitted by Tom Kennedy for the CRC
After a strong showing by Canadian teams in the 2009 Americas Rugby Championship and a cry for more domestic competition, the Canadian Rugby Championship was born.
With the squads recently announced, the CRC looks promising and will feature Canadian stalwarts and up-and-coming players as Ontario, B.C., Prairies and Atlantic duke it out.
The domestic competition runs August and September and will act as a selection tool for the ARC, which will be held in Argentina in October and at this stage will feature a team from the host nation, the U.S. and Canada Selects.
After losing to Argentina in last year’s ARC final, the B.C. Bears will look to youth to lead the way in the 2010 CRC.
Bears Coach Mike James said his team was of the opinion the competition was to develop domestic rugby and so he will be hoping his approach, a mix of youth and experience, will produce a fit, fast outfit.
“We’re trying to make a conscious effort to give some younger players the opportunity to develop,” James said. “We’ll be young, but athletic. We’re optimistic.”
Much of the Bears preparation came in the form sevens tournaments, although the squad did come together to play pre-season fixtures against England Counties and the Royal New Zealand Navy. They lost to Counties but tallied an embarrassing 70 points over the N.Z. Navy.
While James hopes to litter his side with youth, there will be ever-present experience, particularly in the form of Canadian hooker Pat Riordan.
In Ontario, backed by their third-place finish in last year’s competition, the Blues have promised an exciting style for the domestic season.
And if their final pre-season game was anything to go by, they are ready for the CRC. The Blues smashed the Midwest USA Thunderbirds 69-11 in their final pre-season outing and while they’re opponents clearly weren’t up to the task, it was the Ontario team’s persistence at the running game which should be a clear indication of their intentions this year.
The Ontario boys bring youth, depth and experience to this year’s domestic competition and manager Mark Winokur said the team was displaying a confidence in their abilities that they lacked last year.
“We had a good season last year, but not good enough,” he said. “We have confidence this year. We’ve worked very hard on coming up with various game plans. We’re not a large team but we’re pretty athletic.”
The Blues game plan appears simple, keep the ball off the deck, keep it in the hands and keep the game moving.
To execute that style, they have current Canadian fly-half Ander Monro to direct traffic and a very capable and mobile back row to ensure quick ball.
Out east, Atlantic team The Rock returned from a two-game pre-season tour of South Wales with confidence and they’re ready to bring that to the CRC.
Leading the pack will be tight-head prop Rod Snow, who enjoyed strong performances in The Rock’s win over Welsh club Esher and loss to Cross Keys.
“Rod Snow had an excellent tour,” Rock manager Rick Graham said. “I would look for some really good things from him. We’ll let Ontario take from that what they will about our style of game.”
Graham said the team would enter the CRC better prepared than they were for last year’s ARC competition and had maintained a core group from last season, which would allow them to slip seamlessly back into competition.
“Many of these players, especially in our midfield, have been playing together and playing the same systems for a long time,” he said.
The Rock bring to the table a side with a younger average age than last year, but will also field a wealth of experience in Snow, prop Frank Walsh, winger Ciaran Hearn and lock Jebb Sinclair.
Also joining the side this year is former Canadian sevens scrum half Richard O’Malley. Graham said the side was confident in its abilities and would look to rock the Blues when they travel to St. John’s for their opener on August 7.
“I think The Rock are going to be better prepared and more competitive than they were a year ago.”
Meanwhile, much to their distaste, time and geography have left the Prairie Wolf Pack with a less than desirable pre-season.
With two weeks until their opening game in the CRC, the Wolf Pack are holding a four-day camp starting Thursday, which will include an inter-squad game this Saturday.
Unfortunately for coach Mike Shelley, this inter-squad match will be the only fixture of their pre-season, threatening to leave them sorely underprepared for their opener against B.C. in Calgary on August 14.
However, Shelley toured Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta throughout the club season for selection purposes and felt he was able to gather the most complete Wolf Pack representation yet.
“I think we’ve got the best players we’ve ever had in the Wolf Pack program, so I’m optimistic that this year will be a true representation of Prairies rugby.”
Perhaps the Prairies biggest boast is Canadian centre Ryan Smith, with about five years of international experience behind him.
“Obviously Smith is a seasoned campaigner with the national team,” Shelley said. “He’s the standout leader we have in the side.”
Shelley also has faith in the strength of his forwards, including Number 8 Jeremy Kyne and front rowers Hubert Buydens and Tomas Dolezel.
However, with such little preparation it is hard to say how the team will perform until Shelley actually sees them on the pitch together.
The Canadian Rugby Championship is a simplified round robin, with each team facing each other once, before standings will dictate the semifinal fixtures. The winners will advance to the championship game to be held at the home of the top seed September 18th.
------------ 2010 CRC Schedule
ROUND-ROBIN PLAY SCHEDULE 07-Aug-10 Ontario versus Atlantic, 3 p.m., Swilers Rugby Complex, St. John’s, NL 14-Aug-10 BC versus Prairie, 6:30 p.m., Calgary Rugby Park, AB 21-Aug-10 Atlantic versus BC, 3 p.m., Klahanie Park, West Vancouver, BC 21-Aug-10 Ontario versus Prairie, 6 p.m., Calgary Rugby Park, AB 04-Sep-10 Prairie versus Atlantic, 3 p.m., Swilers Rugby Complex, St. John’s, NL 04-Sep-10 BC versus Ontario, 4:30 p.m., Burlington RFC, ON --------------
B.C. Bears Name, Hometown, Pos, Club Hugo Belanger, Victoria, BC, Centre, JBAA Colin Brown, Vancouver, BC, SH, Meralomas David Cameron, Victoria, BC LH, JBAA Brady Carpenter, North Vancouver, BC, Wing, Capilano RFC Taylor Dalziel, Vancouver, BC, Centre, UBC Sanaila Dawai, Burnaby, BC, Wing, Burnaby Lake RFC Thyssen De Goede, Victoria, BC, BR, JBAA Sean Duke, Vancouver, BC, Wing, UVIC Brian Erichsen , Vancouver, BC, SR, Meralomas Seamus Gay, Victoria, BC, BR, Castaway Wanderers Mitch Gudgeon, Victoria, BC SR/BR JBAA Ryan Hamilton, Vancouver, BC, H, UVIC Rhodri Hanmer, Vancouver, BC, LH, Meralomas Tyler Hawes, Salmon Arm, BC, LH/TH, Meralomas Nathan Hirayama, Richmond, BC, FH/FB, UVIC Jake Hirst, Vancouver, BC, FH, Meralomas Ben Johnson, Victoria, BC, BR, JBAA Scott Mackay, Vancouver, BC, TH, Vancouver Rowers Jason Marshall, North Vancouver, BC, TH, Capilano RFC Glen McKinnon, North Vancouver, BC, BR Capilano RFC Callum Morrison, Victoria, BC, BR, JBAA Pat Riordan, Burnaby, BC, H, UVIC Jon Thiel, White Rock, BC, TH, Bayside Conor Trainor, Vancouver, BC, Centre, UWO Sean White, Victoria, BC, SH, JBAA Eric Wilson, Vancouver, BC, SH/FH, Meralomas