Rugby internationals coming to Victoria

Rugby Canada to host Americas Rugby Championship in Langford, it’ll thrive, said Mike Chu, Rugby Canada general manager of operation

Hooker Ryan Hamilton (UVic Vikes) and centre Mike Scholz (Castaway Wanderers) from the national men’s rugby team hope to represent Canada in the Americas Rugby Championship.

Twickenham, Bear Mountain Stadium is not.

But the artificial turf field is undeniably Canada’s home for rugby, new and all, and its about to host six major International Board Rugby tests as the Americas Rugby Championship comes to town Oct. 12 to 20.

The men’s 15s tournament won’t just survive out of Bear Mountain Stadium in Langford, it’ll thrive, said Mike Chu, Rugby Canada general manager of operation.

“The seats are close to the field and it’s international rugby in an intimate setting. The community is excited and supportive and we can’t wait to fill all 2,800 seats.”

That’s 2,800 seats, with added bleachers. Not the 82,000 of England’s Twickenham, but hey, it’s a start.

Included in the Americas championship are Canada, ranked 13th in the world, U.S.A. (17), Uruguay (21st) and the favourite, Argentina (eighth), which was originally planning to host the tournament.

The round robin tourney will happen with two matches a day on three separate occasions, Oct. 12, 16 and 20.

It’s a crucial stage in the development of Canada’s domestic players as they campaign for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, said coach Kieran Crowley.

“Each team will have its country’s best non-professional players and many of them we’ll see at the 2015 RWC.”

Locally, the size of the event also serves to raise rugby’s profile, a reminder of the Canadian tax dollars invested in the Rugby Canada Centre of Excellence, also situated at Bear Mountain Stadium.

“It’s a great vote of confidence from the IRB to get this tournament. They hold strict guidelines around their standards,” Crowley said.

Coincidently, Crowley offered his own vote of confidence.

The former New Zealand All Black affirmed his commitment to lead Rugby Canada to the 2015 RWC, something that was in question earlier this summer. Reports from New Zealand listed Crowley as a finalist for the head coaching job of New Zealand’s Auckland Blues, which compete in the elite Super Rugby 15. The team hired another former All Black, the great John Kirwan.

“That was just a sign that at some stage I would like to go back to New Zealand, but that’s all it was,” Crowley said. “I’m here for the next four years.”

Looking ahead to the ARC, talk centres on Argentina. It’s no secret Argentina has been a major target of the IRB’s growth plan in recent years. This summer Argentina was added to the Tri Nations rugby championship, now known simply as the Rugby Championship, against superpowers South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Thusly Argentina will send a secondary squad to Victoria, but one that will be strong enough to win it all. Uruguay and U.S.A. will be in the same situation as Canada, using its top domestic players.

One significant factor for Canada is the turf. It’s one of the few IRB sanctioned artificial turfs used in international play. More importantly, it’s the home training ground of Rugby Canada.

“We welcome the (other teams) and everything, and not to be cliche, but it’s our home,” national team hooker Ryan Hamilton said.