Captained by Mill Bay’s William Percillier, Canada’s U20 men’s rugby team booked a ticket to the Junior World Trophy by defeating the U.S. 23-5 on Saturday in the second leg of the team’s two-game aggregate series.
Canada entered the game at Shawnigan Lake School with an 11-point lead after beating the U.S. 44-33 in the first game on June 4, and proceeded to build on that.
The Canadian players felt confident going into the second game that they could make that lead stand up.
“In the change room, the game plan was to come out and put it to bed,” Percillier said. “Going in with an 11-point lead, it was easier to break them. Rugby is a sport that is pretty dependent on momentum, and it was a theme of ours to get the momentum.”
Canada got tries from Gabriel Casey and Stefan Zuliani in the first half, with Percillier adding two conversions and a penalty goal, and the host team led 17-0 after 40 minutes. Percillier added two more penalty goals in the second half before the Americans finally got on the board with a try during a Canadian yellow card.
While the first game of the series saw momentum swing back and forth and the lead change hands a couple of times, Canada led Saturday’s match from start to finish.
“I don’t think it was ever really in doubt,” The biggest worry for us is that we could get complacent.”
The Canadian players had spent the previous two weeks in camp on Vancouver Island, but preparations for the series with the U.S. and the Junior World Trophy tournament in Brazil next month began months ago.
“So much hard work went into it,” Percillier said. “Even last year, the seeds were being planted. Some guys last year were brought on just [to prepare for] for this year. We had six returning players this year, and I think four or five started last year.”
This will be Percillier’s third trip to the JWT after representing Canada in Uruguay in 2017 and Romania in 2018.
Canada has qualified for nine of the last 10 JWT tournaments, the second tier of international U20 competition behind the Junior World Championships, but hasn’t won both legs of the qualifier against the U.S. for several years, Percillier pointed out. The success this year has the team thinking about a podium finish, something Canada has done twice before, placing second in 2013 and 2015.
“It’s a testament to our coaching staff and the team we have this year,” Percillier said. “We’re hoping to do well at the tournament, and we have our eyes on some silverware. I don’t think you can go into a tournament not thinking you can do well, but it’s not with any overconfidence either. We’ve put in a lot of work. Obviously there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re not shooting for any less than that.”
The players will return to camp on June 23 ahead of the tournament that begins on July 9, but they are already focused on that task.
“Even in the huddle [after Saturday’s game], we were saying enjoy the win, that’s step one, but we’ve got another big challenge ahead of us and not lose our heads.”
Although Percillier was honoured to serve as captain during the two games at Shawnigan, the Brentwood College School grad isn’t counting on having those same responsibilities at the tournament in Brazil.
“The coaches thought that I was the best to lead this team in the two-game series,” he said. “If I’m asked to lead again, obviously I’ll take it on, but I’m not thinking about that too much.”
Percillier noted the team’s gratitude to the donors and volunteers who made the camp and the two games against the U.S. a success, particulary Shawnigan Lake School, a longtime partner of Rugby Canada.
“None of this would be possible,” he said. “Without all their help, we would not be going to the Trophy, especially with the team the U.S. had this year.”