Vancouver, BC: The Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League, British Columbia's highest caliber of elite men's rugby will resume this weekend with a trio of thrilling matchups. Looking to shake off the rust after a two-month break in the winter schedule, six teams will go head-to-head to see who goes top of the table. Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League - Sat. January 28th:
Abbotsford RFC at James Bay AA (MacDonald Park) 2:45pm
UVic Vikes at Castaway Wanderers RFC (Windsor Park) 2:45pm
Burnaby Lake Rugby Club at Capilano RFC (Klahanie Park) 2:45pmPREMIER LEAGUE STANDINGSSeason Preview:
The 2012 Premier League will once again be a proving ground for national team prospects, as players continue to flock west to display their skills in front of Vancouver Island-based national team coaches.
Of the 30-man Canadian senior men's national team roster to compete at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, no fewer than 27 players had at one point featured in local British Columbian club leagues. BC's top tier has proven to be a launching pad for a number of players who have signed European professional contracts in recent years including DTH van der Merwe (Glasgow Warriors/ Scotland), Adam Kleeberger (London Scottish/ England), Phil and Jamie Mackenzie (Esher RFC/ England), Chauncey O'Toole (Ospreys/ Wales), Jebb Sinclair (London Irish/ England), Tyler Hotson (Plymouth Albion RFC/ England), and North Shore products Jamie Cudmore (ASM Clermont/ France) and Jason Marshall (Stade Arillacois/ France).
With the new Rugby Canada Centre of Excellence officially open in Langford, the CDI Premier League will be the only place for local rugby fans to see the nation's current and future stars on a weekly basis.
The 2012 Spring season kicks off with reigning Rounsefell Cup champions Castaway Wanderers (1-1) hosting the UVic Vikes (1-1) at Windsor Park in a rematch of last year's semifinal. CW sent UVic crashing out of the playoffs in that meeting on April 30th with a convincing 38-18 defeat. Across town, James Bay Athletic Association (2-0) are at home to Abbotsford RFC (0-2), a Fraser Valley outfit looking to prove themselves in BC's top tier. Lower Mainland fans, meanwhile, will be treated to a rematch of the 2011 Miller Cup championship when Capilano RFC (2-0) plays host to bitter rivals Burnaby Lake Rugby Club (2-0).
Four playoff berths will be up for grabs this season with the semifinals tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 5th. The Rounsefell Cup Final is slated for May 12th to determine the province's elite men's club side. Here is a look at the eight clubs competing for the coveted trophy.
-JAMES BAY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
(James Bay/ Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 5-2 (4th)
2011 playoffs: 0-1 (quarterfinal loss to UVic)
Last Premier League title: 2008
Rounsefell Cups: 22 (2006-08, 1999, ’96, ’93, ’92, ’89, ’82, 1974-80, ’63, ’46, 1938-40, ’25)
Coaches Poll ranking: 1st
Key additions: Zac Coughlan out of Newfoundland, will suit up for the Bays this season. According to Bays head coach Peter Rushton, Coughlan has all the necessary tools to play at a very high level in the back row. Luke Tait if healthy brings experience and a very high level of athleticism. Pat Fraser (Canada U20) is a quality back who is fit and eager to push for a starting position. Adam Drury is also another Bays back row pickup, a dual passport holder out of Denver.
Key returnees: Morgan and Jeff Williams. Hugo Belanger (captain), Connor Braid (Canada 7s), Nolan Miles, David Moonlight, Dan Harlow, Spencer Dalziel.
Key departures: None.
-CASTAWAY WANDERERS RFC
(Oak Bay/ Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 6-1 (1st)
2011 playoffs: 2-0 (Rounsefell Cup Champions)
Last Premier League title: 2011
Rounsfell Cups: 4 (2011, 2002, ’01, ’00)
Key additions: Kyle Armstrong, a former Canada Under-20 standout and member of the Ontario Blues 2011 Canadian Rugby Champions is back back from long term knee injury. Andrew Tiedemann has graduated from UVic and was a selection for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Toby Peyton will be playing for CW while taking the year off from UVic.
Key returnees: Matt Buckley, Dylan Jones, Clayton Daum, Paul Buckley
Key departures: Seamus Gay (moved to Australia), Chris Thompson (moved to Alberta), Harold Williams (retired)
Coaches perspective - Ian Hyde-Lay: "[We] need to get out of the gate quickly, as only four teams qualify for the playoffs. We must avoid the injury bug, and must improve defensive play from the first half of this season."
(North Shore/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: Did not qualify for Premier (Tier 2 Champions)
Last Premier League title: 2005
Rounsefell Cups: 2 (2004, 2005), 5 as North Shore (’55, ’48, ’33-’35)
Coaches Poll ranking: 3rd
Key additions: Ryan Hamilton (World Cup 2011 and UVic grad), Nate Rees, Luke Cudmore
Key returnees: Chistoph Strubin, Akio Tyler, Mike Langley, Rob McCall, Shaun Wilson and Kevin Guidi have all returned after some time off over the last couple of seasons. Charlie Jones returned this season after graduating from UBC. These players have been added to a strong nucleus making a very solid squad when healthy.
Key departures: Hayden Bavin (2010-2011 captain) has had to return to New Zealand although he plans to return as soon as he can.
Coaches perspective - Tom Larisch: "I believe we are a team on the rise. We still have lots of work to do but things could go well. We now are in a position that there is strong competition for spots as we have good depth. If I can do my part to prepare and keep the team motivated and working hard, we will have some success. There is a great combination of skill, athleticism, heart and experience. If all the key players buy in we could potentially challenge for the title."
-UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA VIKES
(Saanich/ Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 3-4 (5th)
2011 playoffs: 1-1 (Semifinal loss to CW)
Last Premier League title: 2010
Rounsefell Cups: 3 (2010, ’03, 1971)
Coaches Poll ranking: 4th
Key additions: Patrick Kay (Canada U20/ Canada U18 Sevens/ Outside half and full back), Chase Kelliher (Flanker/ Canada U20 prospect), Callum Busfield (Prop/ has played at Canada youth level)
Key returnees: Nathan Hirayama returns to school after a busy fall schedule at the Rugby World Cup and Pan Am 7s. Keaton Styles returns from taking the first term off and playing at Bayside. Other notable mentions include Tony LaCarte, Brett Beukeboom and Canadian 7s player of the year Sean Duke. Vikes will also have Remi Anctil and Canadian 7s speedster Beau Parker.
Key departures: Ryan Hamilton and Andrew Tiedemann have both graduated. Pat Riordan has retired and Toby Peyton will be taking the year off playing for Castaway Wanderers.
Coaches perspective - Doug Tate: "It is tough to lose our whole front row but it makes for an interesting challenge for the young players and Brett Beukeboom has really taken on the job of leading the team. Along with Struan Robertson they are really the senior players in the forwards. The team has lots of speed and the challenge will be to get them all on the field at any one time. I think there are some excellent teams in the competition this year and there will be no easy games. The players will be lucky to play against some of the top players in Canada and it will really help their development. One disappointment is not having Phil Mack, who unfortunately had a season ending injury that required surgery on his knee. He was playing what I felt was his best rugby and it is a real loss for us and the National Sevens program."
-BURNABY LAKE RUGBY CLUB
(Burnaby/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 1-5-1 (6th)
2011 playoffs: 0-1 (Quarterfinal loss to UBCOB Ravens)
Rounsefell Cups: None
Coaches Poll ranking: 5th
Key additions: Over 90 players have been attending training sessions with new arrivals Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Newfoundland.
Key returnees: No overseas returnees. Players that have left to go home to NZ have not returned.
Key departures: Josh Rolls, Gareth Marsden, Joe Dolesau (Injury), Esava Nakalanisa (Injury), Campbell Cuthill (Injury)
Coaches perspective - Kris De Scossa: "After competing last year and losing games with a small point difference, confidence has been high but in perspective. Knowing we are the underdogs, preparation has been good, even though we have lost some key players. We are looking forward to competing again in the CDI Premier League. We seem to be a great 'go to' club for players looking for a higher level of experience, a good atmosphere, club culture and a great work ethic. These players have helped increase our depth. As well as our [Premier] and [First Divs], we can run two Third Division teams. "
-UBCOB RAVENS RFC
(Vancouver West/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 5-2 (3rd)
2011 playoffs: 1-1 (Semifinal loss to Meraloma)
Last Premier League title: 1994
Rounsefell Cups: 5 (1994, ’90, ’91, ’85, ’81)
Coaches Poll ranking: 6th
Key additions: Jeremy Obertan (transfer via Montreal), Ian Manly (UVic grad), Ben Thomson (UVic grad)
Key returnees: Ed Fairhurst (Rugby World Cup), Mike MacKay, Mike Burak (Captain), Kyle Wiznewski
Key departures: Warren DuBruin (work), David Spicer, Ben Grant
Coaches perspective - Aled Thomas: "After a challenging first half of the season, the aim for the Ravens will be to get some consistency with our performances. If this is achieved then the Ravens will present a strong challenge for the BC Championship. The players have been very working hard during the off season, addressing areas of the game that were poor in the first half, and with the return of some key players from World Cup duty, injuries etc, both squads for the Ravens will be very competitive."
-MERALOMA RUGBY CLUB
(Kitsilano/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 5-1-1(2nd)
2011 playoffs: 2nd (20-3 Cup final loss to CW)
Last Premier League title: 2009
Rounsefell Cups: 13 (2009, ’86-’88, ’83, ’73, ’72, ’67, ’65, ’54, ’41, ’39, ’29)
Coaches Poll ranking: 7th
Key additions: Eric Harland
Key returnees: Alex Boyd, Joshua Clarke (BC Sr Men), Eric Wilson (BC Sr Men) and Brian Erichsen (Rugby World Cup)
Key departures: Sean O'Leary (Newfoundland - The Rock)
Coaches perspective - Greg Cargnelli: "I feel it is fair to say that our [current] record is reflective our performances. We have worked hard, held possession, defended vigorously and have been in the lead or close in several matches. However, we have been unable to "back" ourselves and continuously turn territory and penalties into the points needed for victory. We are very close to turning these tight games into victories. The performances by a number of players throughout the club have been quite impressive - particularly our 19 and 20 year olds. They have played with great heart and have done well to represent the Meraloma Club. The fact is we need results that get us moving up the table in the competition and towards a playoff berth. To win games in this league we will need to score between 19 to 22 points each week.
There is an anticipation and expectation of a "new" season to wash away the losses of the first half. The players have something to prove to themselves and the Club. You can see it in their Eyes. They have a revived passion to perform well and live up to the club's tradition of positive attacking championship rugby."
(Abbotsford/ Fraser Valley Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 0-7 (8th)
2011 playoffs: Did not qualify
Rounsefell Cups: None
Coaches Poll ranking: 8th
Key additions: Abbotsford have graduated some top players from the U19 program. Ryan March, a local tight head prop helped BC win the U18 national championship and will see more action this half. He played U19 and trained with the premier side the first half. Touted as one of the best props in the country for his age group, according to Abby head coach Jason Young.
Key returnees: Aaron Flagg at 21 years old has two years of Premier experience and is one of the go to forwards. He is 6-foot-4 and 260 pound with great speed and athletic ability. Flagg also plays tight head and lock. Patricks Shields just turned 19 in the fall and was in the top three try scorers in the fall season. The transition from U19 to premier rugby did not seem to bother this young athlete. Shields has been through the BC provincial programs and academy and could potentially be part of the Canada U20 program in the near future.
Key departures: none
Coaches perspective - Jason Young: "We are already ahead of last years pace with securing two bonus points against Uvic. The season can only get better. Abbotsford is proud of developing its own talent within. This is a credit to the very successful junior and mini rugby programs. This does take longer but it does make the club stronger in the long run. We are very young with nine players under the age of 21 in our premier side. Being in this league against strong competition week in and week out will only make the players better and stronger. The club is in a great position. Our goal is to be competitive in each and every game and not look at results so much but concentrate on performance. I am definitely looking forward to the second half."