The B.C. Provincial Men’s rugby team, as part of their revamped NextGen program, sends a squad out to the Las Vegas Invitational 7s Tournament this week for a two-day competition among some of the best teams in the world.
North Saanich player Justin Logan, 23, made the cut to play prop on the 7s team, although he usually plays wing in the 15s format of the game.
“We’ve got an amazing amount of talent this year. Much bigger guys, much quicker, and we’re gelling a lot more than last year,” he said.
Logan, who has only been playing rugby for about four years, hopes to use the opportunity as a springboard into the Canadian Men’s National Team. He says he enjoys 7s but also has a passion for the 15-aside game.
“We’ve got really good guys like [coaches] Sean White and Tony La Carte and it’s great that they’ve got a sports psychologist on board as well,” he said.
Logan says as players move up the levels, they go to a range of tournaments, with recent teams competing in Dubai and South America.
White has been one of the key driving forces in the re-structuring of the squad and NextGen program.
“We’re looking for it to be a platform for players to be the next generation of international players for Canada,” he said.
White retired two years ago from the national team, after winning 27 international caps. He hopes to use the experiences he gained playing at the highest level to help develop up-and-coming young players.
He says 12 players have been selected for the Las Vegas 7s tournament, although there are 18 players on their current roster, with more due to be selected later in the season.
Against top international opposition, White thinks the tournament will indicate the distance of how far they are from their goal of supplying players to the next level on the Canadian rugby pyramid.
The excellent Canadian Women’s National Team is ranked third in the world and is caught in, what some commentators say, is an enviable cycle of self-perpetuating success. This is because they receive funding from organizations that offer it to successful teams with high chances of winning honours and corporate sponsors who want to associate themselves with success. The Canadian Men’s Team, ranked 21st in a competitive field, find funding more difficult to come by.
White explains that in lieu of a professional league system, top provincial players are selected to play for the elite development squad called The Maple Leafs, who are then used as a talent pool to supply the men’s national team, who are paid to train and play.
It is his goal to develop players for the Maple Leafs’ 35-man roster.
Logan says the program has given him confidence in the future.
“I think with programs like this, we’re starting to get the development started early and soon new players will put pressure on those in the national team to keep their spots. I think it will boost everything up.”