University Rugby Initiative

In 2022, following the results of a survey of the University Men’s Rugby Coaches Association, several important issues were identified that are barriers to the overall calibre of Men’s rugby played in Canadian Universities, contribute to the disparities between the top-tier rugby programs and the vast majority of the teams, and does not optimize the development of university players for futures in the Rugby Canada senior program or MLR. These were:

  • The qualifications, certifications, and education of the Head and Assistant coaches to the Level 2 and 3 World Rugby standards, and the lack of supplementary coach development opportunities for coaches at that level.
  • The lack of dedicated Strength & Conditioning coaches and facilities at universities not yet recognizing men’s rugby as a varsity sport
  • The compensation level for coaches (most head coaches and assistant coaches are volunteers or are paid a minimal honorarium vs. having a part-time contract or full- or part-time university employment) does not attract sufficient numbers of qualified university coaches.
  • The lack of strong competition (and sufficient games per season) within four of the five regional leagues or from external rugby teams to the extent that exists with the BC Premiership or where the Pacific Pride and Toronto Arrows Academies exist.
  • The lack or cost (usage fees, rentals) of practice and game fields required for a daily training environment.

The first has been and is being addressed with a burgeoning relationship being developed with the Crusaders (NZ) International Academy.

In April 2022, 13 Canadian University Coaches took part in a two-week virtual Coaches Accelerator program funded by the Canadian Rugby Foundation and its University Rugby Supporters Fund. This program is expected to be repeated annually.

On July 10-20, 2022, two of the Crusaders Academy coaches –¬†Aaron Webb and Shane Fletcher – who were presenters at the April course will travel to BC to assist in the development of U16 and U18/19 and university-bound rugby players. While based at UBC, they will also travel around the province (including to UVic and Brentwood College) to maximize exposure to a larger number of students. These sessions will be open to other Canadian University coaches, including Curry Hitchborn (UBC), Scott Manning (UVic) and Andy Evans (TWU), with the idea they will share their learnings with other high school and university players and coaches. This tour is also expected to be repeated in 2023 in Ontario and Quebec. The Schedule for the BC visit is HERE for interested visiting coaches.


In May 2023, 10 university coaches will be funded (approximate award of $4,500 each) to attend a one-week Coaches Course at the Crusaders Internal Academy in New Zealand. Two will be selected and funded by the Foundation’s Gerald McGavin Award Fund administered by the BCRU and 8 will be drawn from across Canada. The application process for the¬† 8 coaches from across Canada will be announced soon.

The second is being addressed through a system of regional S&C coaches under development that will provide face-to-face and virtual assistance in S&C coaching and testing.

The third, fourth and fifth needs are related to the small operating budgets available to most teams. The University Rugby Initiative will, depending on funds raised, attempt to alleviate some of these on a needs basis.

The current goal is to raise $100,000 to fund and initiate these new programs. A Sponsorship presentation is HERE and includes a summary of the Crusaders Accelerator course held in April.