Road to 2017 begins at Shawnigan Lake

Prospective players for Canada’s entry in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup started the tryout process at Shawnigan Lake School last week.

Prospective players for Canada’s entry in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup — including three players from the Cowichan Rugby Football Club — started the tryout process at Shawnigan Lake School last week.

About half of the 70 hopefuls for the national team gathered for the western camp at Shawnigan, which will be followed by a similar camp in eastern Canada next month, and coaches were pleased with what they saw.

“We were happy with the way it went,” said Shawnigan’s Gary Dukelow, the scrum coach under national team head coach Francois Ratier. “There was lots of learning to do because we had lots of new players. We were happy with the way the rookies performed, and with how the veterans helped them out, not just on the field, but off the field as well.”

The veterans are key to the efforts by Ratier and the other coaches to recreate the culture and cohesion that led to the team’s success at the 2014, where Canada had a best-ever second-place finish.

The short, five-day camp ended with a final game last Thursday, where the coaches tested players in different positions.

“Our focus was on contact and passing and catching,” Dukelow related. “Those seem like basic things, but they’re things that Francois always thought were most important for success.”

Members of the Cowichan women’s team showed up for the final game of camp dressed in pig costumes to cheer on their teammates, Brandi Van Eeuwen, Laura Russell and Tyson Beukeboom.

Local product Van Eeuwen pulled out of the selection process for the 2014 World Cup team because of school commitments. This time, even though she has a baby and job to worry about off the field, she is taking another shot.

Van Eeuwen injured her hand on the second day of camp and broke her collarbone early in the intrasquad game, but did enough while she was healthy to keep the coaches’ interest.

“Because she did such a good job, the potential is there still,” Dukelow said.

Dukelow also praised Russell and Beukeboom, both of whom played for Canada at the 2014 World Cup.

“Laura Russell performed well,” he said. “She’s one of the leaders in this group. Tyson Beukeboom also performed well.”

Russell and Beukeboom relocated to the Cowichan Valley from Ontario in order to play with the local club, and Dukelow wouldn’t be surprised to see other players from across Canadafollow suit.

“Other girls in the country have shown interest in playing here because of the uniqueness and closeness of the club,” he said. “Francois recognizes the local community as a rugby culture he’d like to emulate. It makes me proud as an ex-member of the national team and a member of the Cowichan club.”