Ciaran Breen (fifth from left) and the rest of Canada’s World School Sevens team join Canadian national and the Auckland rugby union team for training in New Zealand on Monday. (Twitter photo)

Rugby keeps Mill Bay’s Ciaran Breen moving

Shawnigan student on national squad for World School Sevens and XV California tour

A busy few weeks of rugby have just started for Mill Bay’s Ciaran Breen.

The Shawnigan Lake School Grade 12 student is in New Zealand this week, representing Canada at the World School Sevens. He’ll be back home briefly before heading to San Diego for the national U18 team’s holiday tour.

It’s a lot of travel and a lot of rugby in a short time, but Breen doesn’t mind.

“If you love it, it’s fairly easy,” he says. “I don’t think of it as a burden whatsoever.”

Canada is one of 12 boys teams at the World School Sevens, in a pool with two squads from New Zealand and one from Tonga. There is also a seven-team girls division, although Canada isn’t among the entries.

“The World School Sevens in Auckland provides an amazing opportunity for our up-and-coming athletes to gain valuable experience against some of the worlds best national youth programs,” head coach Nigel D’Acre said in a release on Rugby Canada’s website.

“There’s been a lot of work over the last few years developing sevens at the grassroots level in Canada. Our local tournaments provide valuable and regular sevens exposure for young Canadian players and opportunities like the World School Sevens are invaluable to gauge our development against the best in the world.”

Breen was among 24 high school and university players from across the country invited to try out for the Canadian team, based on their play at the 2018 Canadian Rugby Championships, school rugby and previous national XV team experience.

“It was an accumulation of the many teams I’ve played for,” he explains.

Twelve players were selected for the final squad. Being one of the younger hopefuls, Breen didn’t think he’d be among them.

“I wasn’t expecting much from it, honestly, being one of the youngest players,” he says.

Breen left for New Zealand on Dec. 7 for the tournament that runs this Friday and Saturday.

“It will be a great experience,” he said prior to leaving. “And a chance to display the skills I have on a world stage.”

The Canadians didn’t have a chance to train together prior to the trip, and Breen knew only one player before travelling to New Zealand, UVic’s Brock Webster, with whom he attended Crusaders HP rugby academy in New Zealand last summer.

“I’m excited to meet some new faces, new people,” he said.

Just last month, Breen captained an Island all-star team that squared off with a Mainland side in a high school sevens showcase match at the national men’s university championships hosted by the University of Victoria. The Island roster also included Shawnigan’s Brenner Kelava and Graeme Norris, while Brentwood College School was represented by Abdulla Hammawah and Callum Blake-Currier.

Breen will be back at school for one day before Christmas break begins. On Boxing Day, he will head to San Diego, where two Canadian squads will play matches against a pair of U.S. teams and an intersquad game before returning home on Jan. 4.

Breen will be one of four players from the Cowichan Valley on the tour. He will be joined on the Canada Red roster by Shawnigan teammate Jamin Hodgkins and Brentwood’s Jacob Bossi, while Brenner Kelava, will suit up for Canada White.

The rosters were picked through regional camps held in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Kingston, Ont., and Halifax. An initial group of close to 180 athletes was narrowed down to 60 for the tour.

“By the end of the tour we hope that these 60 players have a better understanding of what is required of them to play rugby at an international standard,” head coach Mike Curran told Rugby Canada’s website. “They will then be tasked to return to their training environments and further their individual development.”

Breen is equally excited about both his opportunities this month to wear the maple leaf in international competition.

“There’s nothing like representing your country,” he said.

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