The national U20 men’s rugby team started training at Shawnigan Lake School last week in anticipation of the Junior World Rugby Trophy tournament in Uruguay later this month.
The generosity of Shawnigan, which provided accommodations and practice fields, and the Canadian Rugby Foundation, which covered the cost of food, made it possible to get things underway for the team, which includes several players with connections to the Cowichan Valley.
Canada leaves on Aug. 23 for the tournament that runs Aug. 29 to Sept. 10. The Canadian team includes Duncan’s George Barton, who came up through the Cowichan Rugby Football Club system and Shawnigan, and now plays for the Clermont rugby academy in France, Mill Bay’s William McDougall-Percillier, who also played for the CRFC and Brentwood College School. Other Shawnigan grads on the team include Evan Norris, Matt Beukeboom and James O’Neill.
“It’s never easy finalizing a squad,” said Jeff Williams, the head coach of the national U20 side and also a coach at Shawnigan. “We had a few injuries, and those players that were injured covered multiple positions so we needed to look at other players to come in.”
It was vital to get the players into action together before the JWT in Uruguay.
“When you get to this level, consistency is everything,” Williams said. “It is almost impossible to show up to a tournament and not have the players feel like a team.”
Canada plays on Aug. 29 against Namibia, on Sept. 2 against Japan, and Sept. 6 against Chile. The other pool includes Uruguay, Fiji, Portugal and Hong Kong. The final will be played on Sept. 10 between the two pool winners.
Canada did not qualify for the JWT tournament in 2016. In 2015, Canada reached the final, falling 49-24 to Georgia. The winner of the tournament qualifies for the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship. Canada has not played at that level since 2009.