NEW YORK, NY – Earlier this month, we named our 2013 USA Players To Watch, which went over well but got us some grief from our Canadian friends. So, now we’re showing some Beaver love to Canadian Rugby. Just as it was done with the USA piece, the players listed are selected not for their 2012 record but for what we expect them to achieve in 2013. We’ll continue in this vein when we name our 2013 Canadian Clubs, Coaches & Management To Watch – so stay tuned. Today though, it’s the Canadian Rugby Players To Watch in 2013:
Britt Benn: Ladies first… Britt was the Canadian Inter-university Sports (CIS) women’s Player of the Year. She plays for the Guelph Griffins of Guelph University in (you guessed it) Guelph, Ontario. Benn was a five-year student and in those five years she was selected each year to the Ontario Universities Association’s (OUA) all-star team, collecting four OUA scoring titles and made four all-Canadian CIS teams. Way back in 2008 she was named the OUA Russell division Rookie of the Year. She led the Griffins to 3 third-place finishes, one national title (last season) and a second place finish this season. The center has leadership skills, good speed, is dangerous in attack and is no slouch defensively. It will be interesting to see if she becomes a staple of the 7s circuit with an eye toward Rio and the RWC7s – or the 15s team, which is looking to improve their attack.
Tyler Ardron: Canada has a very proud tradition of producing quality backrows like Jebb Sinclair, Adam Kleeberger, Aaron Carpenter and going further back, Al Charron and Dan Baugh. Young Mr. Ardron is the next in this great line and is our choice for Domestic Player of the Year. Though just 21, he captained Canada A in the Americas Rugby Championship. His leadership led Canada to wins over USA and Uruguay. At 6’5, he is tall enough to play lock but is a dynamic athlete and has the tools of a good flanker. Moreover, his quickness, speed and work habits make him impossible to miss. In addition to his 3 tests with Canada A, Ardon played twice with Team Canada resulting in tweets/jokes about Carpenter moving to hooker. If this happens, the #8 position is Ardron’s to lose. Either way, expect him to end up in Europe with a French D2 club or RFU Championship club.
George Kruis: Big George is the Overseas-based player to watch. He is somewhat of a controversial pick because he is half English/half Canadian. This is only an issue because he has managed to make a name for himself at Saracens, despite being behind an ex-England international and a current England international on the lock depth chart. His ability has more than a fair few Canadians wishing he’d pledge his future to Canada. Combining Kruis with another young lock, Brett Beukeboom (son of former NHL player and NY Ranger legend Jeff), of Plymouth Albion RFC and grizzled vet Jamie Cudmore, has the 2015 Canadian engine room looking very solid. Kruis is athletic enough to cover blindside flank and #8 but at 6’6″ 235lb/112kg he seems made for the new age lock. He is fast and agile for a man his size with an eye-catching ability to go 80 minutes with equal intensity. There’s hope he chooses the Maple Leaf over the Rose.
Taylor Paris: Taylor Paris could go down as the greatest Canadian-born and bred back ever- a mantle currently held by IRB Hall of Famer Garth Rees – and why Paris is our Young Player of the Year. He showed some of his brilliance on the IRB 7s circuit at the age of 18 in 2010 – see the video below – and gave a glimpse of greatness in the 2012 Junior World Trophy Tournament despite Canada faring poorly. Taylor is now signed with the Glasgow Warriors, where he can train and practice with the greatest Canadian back ever, DTH Ver der Werve. They are both classified as wings on the Glasgow roster but can play in the centers. For Canada, a center combo of DTH and Paris would be the most dangerous they have ever had.
Nathan Hirayama: Hirayama could have made this list the last 2 or 3 years and is finally our 7s Player to Watch. Since he arrived on the scene at the age of 18 in 2006, he has shown flashes of his brilliance and has also represented Canada in 15s. However, there has been a growing frustration within Canadian fans with Hirayama’s inability to dominate on the international stage. But with an eye on the 7s RWC and Rio, it seems like Hirayama is focused primarily on 7s. The extra space and speed of 7s may help him get over that perceived hump and achieve his potential. As a fly-half and fullback in 15s, Hirayama is a play-maker. After Canada lost primary play-maker Phil Mack on the 7s circuit in South Africa, Nathan had a chance to to step up. Unfortunately, mid-tournament changes are tough and he didn’t quite hit his stride. We think that will change.
That’s it for now. We welcome your comments below and please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner, and respectively @Ebstide52 .
Be sure to check back for our 2013 Canadian Clubs, Coaches & Management To Watch and as always…
Stay low and keep pumping those legs.