After seeing yet another packed house assemble to watch Canada “A” play international rugby at Westhills Stadium, Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak couldn’t say enough about the fans.
“I think it’s gone very well. The crowds have been so excited and there’s been a great energy,” she said of the IRB Americas Rugby Championship, a four-team round robin that wrapped up Sunday.
Despite a second straight Canadian loss at the event – 39-9 to the perennial tournament champion Argentina Jaguars – that left the home team with the bronze medal, Szpak maintained her enthusiasm for Rugby Canada and Langford’s hosting of the event.
“Having been a rugby mom (her husband, Bob, and son, Michael once played on the same team), to me this is very exciting. I don’t know a lot about the game, but I know enough to follow it,” she said.
“Just to see that whole sense of pride that everyone has in the facility we have here, and for Rugby Canada and for having the (Rugby) Centre for Excellence, is just awe-inspiring for many people in Langford. And we’re very, very proud of the team.”
More than 10,000 fans from around the Capital Region took in the tournament, which saw doubleheaders played Oct. 11, 15 and 19. That encouragement was not lost on the players.
“Huge thanks for the support we’ve had here,” Team Canada captain Kyle Gilmour said after Sunday’s match. “I know we underperformed a bit, but it’s great to see the big crowd out again. Huge thanks to Langford and Victoria and the people here.”
Szpak said Langford has made itself a destination for sports tourism through building facilities such as Westhills Stadium.
“I think it’s very significant when you look at a community like Langford, and that Rugby Canada has chosen to come here and we have actually made it possible for them to say ‘yes, this is a really great place for [us] to hang [our] hat.’”
While it’s home to the men’s, women’s and age-group national team programs, she said, local residents look at the various Team Canadas as “our team(s).”
The city has made various improvements to the stadium, such as adding more seating this year, and is working toward creating more parking to accommodate special events such as the ARC, Szpak said.