RWU Friend Ray’s Rugby is back with this piece from Canada.
Vancouver, BC – Last year, fellow Rugby Rain Man and RWU Senior Correspondent Junoir Blaber put together a Canadian Class of 2013. It was an honest effort but as a red-blooded Canadian, I thought it was best I take over in 2014. However, before we look at the 2014 class, let’ start with a 2013 Canadian Class Review:
Britt Benn: Britt was the RWU and Canadian Inter-university Sports (CIS) Women’s Player of the Year. But apparently she is having trouble adjusting mentally to the senior level game. She didn’t tour with them to France and England and is a non-dressing reserve – according to Rugby Canada.
Tyler Ardron: Tyler enjoyed a superb season for Canada, fulfilling nearly all expectations of him – and captaining – his country on their November tour in the absence of injured Aaron Carpenter. He was one of the best players on show in the Pacific Nations Cup, and on the back of those performances he signed with Neath-Swansea Ospreys, where he has been a regular in both RaboDirect Pro 12 and Heineken Cup team sheets.
George Kruis: George sadly opted for England this year, turning out for the Saxons during the Six Nations tournament. It’s unknown whether he was formally approached by Rugby Canada, but one can’t help but feel that he might have limited his international prospects, with so many exceptional young second rows already competing for the English jersey.
Taylor Paris: Taylor didn’t start the year well, getting little game-time with Glasgow Warriors and having a really average Pacific Nations Cup, which led to him being dropped by head coach Kieran Crowley. After being released by Glasgow, he signed for Pro D2 club Agen, where he has been first-choice, ahead of former Junior All Blacks star Viliame Waqaseduadua. He earned himself a recall to the Canadian side that trounced Portugal and still has plenty of time to be back in national colours in the coming year.
Nathan Hirayama: Hirayama enjoyed a superb year in the 7s circuit, leading Canada to consolation plate championship at the World Cup in Moscow, while finishing third in the season’s scoring race. His combination with Phil Mack as chief play-makers in the side is as good as any around, and looks to continue once again this season, although Hirayama will miss the first tournaments with injury. He also played four times for the senior side – starting twice in the Pacific Nations Cup – but has never looked as comfortable in the full game as in 7s. With the Olympics now just a couple seasons away, perhaps it’s better he concentrated on the shorter version of the game full-time.
Balmy Beach RFC: Our Club of the Year and traditional powerhouse, Balmy Beach, had a tough year in 2013, finishing in the middle of the pack in the Rugby Ontario Marshall Premiership and losing to Stoney Creek in the second round of the McCormick Cup finals. As usual, they supplied several players to representative sides, including eight players to the Ontario Blues, with Hank McQueen further involved in the Canadian ARC (Americas Rugby Championship) side and Liam Underwood of course playing flyhalf in several tests this year. Conor McCann returned from France to feature with the national U20s, but has since moved to BC to further his international career. It’ll be an off-season of rebuilding for the famed club who watched Markham Irish walk away with the Cup after defeating Aurora Barbarians in the final.
John Tait: Tait continues his rise through the ranks in Canadian rugby, leading his Women’s 7s team to a third place finish on the IRB Circuit and a World Cup final, losing only to tournament favorites New Zealand. He has expanded his pool of athletes and his own coaching portfolio, helping out as technical advisor with the Senior Women’s XVs as well. To top it off, he took home the Coaching Associations of Canada’s Coaching Excellence Award along with his assistant Sandro Fiorino. He looks in great shape to continue through to the Olympics and the Men’s National Side could do worse than to ask him to help with their lineout issues.
British Columbia Rugby: British Columbia didn’t have a great year. Thankfully, they entered an official BCRU team to the CRC (Canadian Rugby Championship) tournament, (replacing the abominable Tyee with the traditional Bears), and entered a stronger team more representative of the provincial strength than the past. Unfortunately, for them they were beaten soundly by Ontario for the third consecutive year, finishing second, while only winning two games. They were also bested at the National Junior Championships, winning only at U16 level. The ARC tournament in Langford was a success, but was once gain overshadowed by the men in the middle, as Toronto produced the two biggest crowds of the year. Despite the insistence that BC rugby is in rude health, it’s clear to the rest of the country that as a province they need to pick up their socks.
Mike Chu: Mike has continued his strong start at the helm of Rugby Canada. The performance of national sides all across the board improved, along with the Nation’s Cup and the outstanding success in Moscow. Cohesion among the provinces has improved, with several high level coaches and administrators sent across the country, and the record-setting attendances in Toronto reflect a noticeable rise in the sport’s popularity. Now if only he can sort out Rugby Canada’s communications issues…
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