Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - Submitted by Garth Gottfried, CRC Press Officer
The 2012 Canadian Rugby Championship kicks off on August 18th, when the Prairie Wolf Pack hosts British Columbia at Calgary Rugby Park. The league’s two other teams will start play the following week, when the Rock makes the trip from Newfoundland to face the Ontario Blues.
Now in its fourth season, the Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) will see each team play five games in 2012, with the eastern teams each hosting three games. When the league debuted in 2009, it was a simple round-robin; 2011 was the first season where teams played each other more than once.
“Providing five fixtures increased the number of games for all sides in the competition and most sides seek out additional high performance games outside of the CRC season,” stated League Commissioner Gord Sneddon.
“The goal is to expand to six, a full home and away contest, then subsequently include a final. We are only limited in that regard by financing which is why the support of the rugby community is critical. In short we need to get people out to the games.”
Partially funded by the International Rugby Board (IRB), the CRC was brought into existence in order to provide more high-level games for Canada’s rugby athletes, officials and administrators.
“We are delighted to see the CRC go from strength to strength each year in terms of the standard of Rugby and the organisation of the event” said Mark Egan IRB’s Head of Development and Performance.
“Since its inauguration the CRC has played a crucial role in developing players who have graduated to represent the senior national men’s team and will continue to do so over the next four years as we build towards RWC 2015” added Egan.
The 2012 pre-season will see teams take on their most ambitious exhibition schedules yet. The first CRC team that will see action is the Ontario Blues, who travel to B.C. for a friendly on April 7. The Blues will face the Maple Leafs, a team made up from national rugby team athletes based at the Centre of Excellence in Langford.
In May, the Rock will take 33 players to Victoria, B.C., for four tune-up games in nine days as part of their pre-season training camp. Around the same time, the Ontario Blues will tour to South America playing a provincial side in Argentina, as well as the Chilean and Uruguayan national teams. As 2011 champions, the Blues will play Salta in Argentina’s north; the provincial side toured Canada in 2011, inviting the eventual CRC champions to make the return trip in 2012.
“The program made big strides last year,” stated Blues manager Mark Winokur, “but we are very aware that the other CRC teams will improve, and that our pre-season tour will be the most challenging two weeks for us ever.” “The guys are really buying into the whole thing, though, so we will continue to push and make progress on what we did last year.” In June, the Rock will also play fixtures against Nova Scotia and the Voyageurs, which will be a select side from the Quebec and Eastern Ontario region.
The Prairie Wolf Pack is unique as it draws players from three different provinces, which poses many challenges. Former Canada national senior men`s team player Ryan Smith is the team manager in 2012. With some of the harshest off-season weather in the nation, the Wolf Pack knows a thing or two about winter training. Rugby World Cup player Jeremy Kyne is one of several coaches working with players in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon.
“We are excited about the upcoming season, as we have a solid foundation to build on from the last two years," stated Smith. “We have tremendous buy-in from the players for our region, and our team culture has really taken on a life of its own. “ “We have a jumpstart to the season with our winter training plans and the regional reorganization, so we are extremely excited for this coming CRC season.”
In British Columbia, the team will be part of Rugby Canada`s new Centre of Excellence in Langford, playing their home games at Bear Mountain Stadium on Vancouver Island. Ontario`s three home games will be put to tender, with venues announced in the coming weeks. The Prairie Wolf Pack will play at Calgary Rugby Park, while the Rock play at the Swilers’ Rugby Complex in St. John`s.
CANADIAN RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP 2012 SCHEDULE Saturday, August 18 B.C. @ Wolf Pack
Saturday, August 25 The Rock @ Blues Wolf Pack @ B.C.
Saturday, September 1 B.C. @ Blues Wolf Pack @ The Rock
Tuesday, September 4 Wolf Pack @ Blues B.C. @ The Rock
Saturday, September 15 Blues @ B.C. The Rock @ Wolf Pack