The sport of rugby sevens is continuing to grow, both internationally and in Canada, as the sport is set to join the world stage at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympic games. The opportunity for a group of Under-18 men’s players to participate in the Youth Commonwealth Games on the Isle of Man is another great chance to develop future potential Olympic-calibre athletes.
Such opportunities however, do come at a cost – previously in the form of a barrier to some participating athletes. This barrier for the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games has been eliminated thanks to a tremendous contribution from the Canadian Rugby Foundation.
Through its Director, Matthuw Ronald-Jones and the Board of Directors, funding has been allocated to allow all players to attend the event with all expenses covered through the foundation’s “Olympic Sevens Fund’.
“The Canadian Rugby Foundation’s “Olympic Sevens Fund” is more than happy to be able to support Canada’s U-18 team competing at the Youth Commonwealth Games this September on the Isle of Man,” says Ronald-Jones.
He points to a great fundraising campaign earlier in the year in Hong Kong that made this contribution possible.
“This year’s Hong Kong Sevens was a fantastic week for the National Senior Women’s 7’s, the National Senior Men’s 7’s and the Canadian Rugby Foundation,” he explains. “The CRF was very fortunate to have a great mix of Canadians making the trip to HK as well as all the Canadian’s that live in Hong Kong and were able to take part in the Great Canadian Sevens Luncheon.”
“Part of the proceeds from the week are being directed to support this young group of Canadians coached by Shane Thompson and Jeff Williams.”
Thompson – who was part of the U-18 men’s Gold Medal-winning British Columbia team at the National Festival in Calgary, says having this funding allows himself and Williams to have access to the best athletes available.
“Taking this team out of a pay-to-play model is a major step and this will allow us to focus on rugby and building a great team for this event,” said Thompson, a former coach of the Canadian men’s sevens team, as well as one of Canada’s greatest ever Sevens players on the International Rugby Board circuit.
Ronald-Jones says having a good showing at YCG is an important stepping stone for future development of Sevens in Canada.
“Our Olympic Sevens Fund is focused on helping Canada be as successful on the Sevens pitch as possible and by supporting the U-18 YCG team, we believe this is an investment in the future of Canadian rugby, as well as a step closer to qualifying for the Olympics in 2016.”
Thompson, for his part, is very keen on the team he and Jeff Williams have selected.
“We have selected a number of great individual athletes that can perform at the elite level,” Thompson said. “Now the challenge will be getting all the players to buy into a team concept. Seven-a-side rugby is about every player on the field buying into that concept and working as a unit.”
Thompson will be joined by assistant coach Jeff Williams (Victoria, B.C.) and co-coach/manager Darrell Devine (Guelph, Ont.) for the competition. The squad will assemble in Toronto on September 1 for a four day camp before departing for the Isle of Man.
Canada will be competing in Pool A at the Youth Commonwealth Games against Australia, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Pool B will be made up of South Africa, England, Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago. Full schedules and tournament details will soon be added to the www.cyg2011.com website.
For more information on how to give to the Canadian Rugby Foundation – go to www.canadianrugbyfoundation.ca
Canadian U-18 Sevens Roster
(Name – Club/Hometown)
Lukas Balkovec – Waterloo County RFC/ Kitchener, Ont.
Andrew Battaglia – Aurora Barbarians RFC/ Aurora, Ont.
Jorden Best – Abbotsford RFC/ Abbotsford, B.C.
Byron Boville – Barrie RFC/ Barrie, Ont.
Justin Douglas – Abbotsford RFC/ Abbotsford, B.C.
Haydn Evans – Cowichan Rugby Club/ Terrace, B.C.
Scott Gauer – Crusaders Rugby Club/ Mississaugua, Ont.
Fergus Hall – Castaway Wanderers/ Victoria, B.C.
Lucas Hammond – Toronto Nomads RFC/ Toronto, Ont.
Pat Kay – Cowichan Rugby Club/ Cowichan, B.C
Conor McCann – Balmy Beach RFC/ Toronto, Ont.