Shawnigan’s Russell helps Canada to World Cup final

One Cowichan Valley rugby player had a front-row spot, quite literally, as Canada made history earlier this month with a run to the final of the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Laura Russell, an intern at Shawnigan Lake School and player for the Cowichan Rugby Football Club, lined up in the front row for Canada at loosehead prop and hooker as her team became the first Canadian side to make a World Cup final, where they ultimately lost to England.

Regardless of the final result, it was a moment that neither Russell nor the rest of the Canadian rugby community will forget.

"The World Cup was an amazing experience," she said. "We don’t usually always play a tournament style when we go on tours, we’ll generally play two or three tests. So every game counts towards your standings and how you advance. And it’s the World Cup so it’s the best of the best and every team is there with something to prove."

Russell, whose role was to inject pace and energy to the Canadian lineup in the second half, hopes to continue to play with the national team in the build-up to the next World Cup in 2017.

"This is definitely just the start for us," she said. "It’s an exciting time for rugby in Canada as the level keeps getting higher and I am definitely going to keep working to be a part of the squad."

Russell grew up in Ontario, but moved to Vancouver Island to work at Shawnigan thanks to an opportunity provided by Rugby Canada. It only made sense that she would play with the CRFC, who she helped win the B.C. women’s Div. 1 championship.

"When coming out here I started playing for Cowichan because there were a few people from the school that played there, and my coach Gary Dukelow suggested it as it is his club team. They have been so amazing and welcomed me so nicely into the club and community. The support I have felt from both Shawnigan Lake School and the Cowichan Rugby Club has been unreal especially since it is my first year with them and both have made me feel a part of their families."