Rugby Canada's Men's U20 Team Coach Mike Shelley has today named his team for the opening game of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy vs. Georgia on Monday.
Canada U20s vs Georgia U20s (3pm PST - Monday June 18)
This will be the fifth edition of the IRB's increasingly popular tournament, which will represent for these players the pinnacle of age-group rugby and the end of this cycle of Rugby Canada's High Performance Program. Host this year is Salt Lake City, Utah, meaning a shorter travel day for the young Rugby Canada athletes than previous tournaments in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Moscow, Russia. The team arrived on Friday in high spirits and has been busy in training sessions with increased intensity as they adapt to the climate, the altitude, and the environment in the USA southwest.
All the teams are being accommodated at the University of Utah, and building a spirit of friendship among the competing teams is central to USA Rugby's approach to hosting the tournament. “We are trying to make this tournament all about the players," CEO and President of Operations of USA Rugby Nigel Melville said. "They will be able to engage and spend time with each other, which is sometimes missing at international rugby tournaments. There should be a good feel about it instead of players being scattered all about town in hotels and playing at different times and in different venues.”
The Canadian side, captained by BC's Jake Illnicki, is representative of the growing spread of Canadian rugby, with players from BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador all looking forward to running out with the Maple Leaf on their chests. While they may not be tournament favourites, Melville is backing the Canadians to impress. "I think Tonga will be favourites […] but emerging nations such as ourselves, Russia and Canada are vying hard now. There are some good players out there regardless of the fact that it is a second tier tournament. It’ll be good to showcase that talent in America and demonstrate to the kids over here that there is a lot of exciting things happening in international rugby."
Team Canada is boosted by the inclusion of one player to have already showed his talents on the world stage. Taylor Paris this week signed a contract with RaboDirect Pro12 side Glasgow Warriors, and the prodigious centre has already starred on the World Sevens Series and at the Rugby World Cup, where he was the youngest player at the tournament in 2011. The team will be looking to utilize his experience as they come up against Japan, runners-up in the past two tournaments, an ever-improving Georgia who come with a generation of players growing up with rugby as a national sport, and Zimbabwe, who have prepared for the tournament by bringing on board Australian legend David Campese.
That makes for a very closely matched Pool B, with Melville expecting a very high standard of play. "Teams competing are playing at a higher level now and the gap between the Junior World Rugby Trophy and the Junior World Championship, which used to be quite wide, has definitely closed," he said. With promotion to the top tier tournament the prize for victory in Utah, motivation will be high to deliver performances to be proud of.
IRB Tournament Director Tom Jones said it will be an experience the players will cherish forever. "The JWRT is a wonderful opportunity for young players from all over the globe to bring their skills to the attention of the world. The experience of being at a major youth tournament will stand to them as their Rugby careers develop and they have a rare chance to forge friendships to last a lifetime."
Reflecting the strong three-way collaboration between USA Rugby, the IRB and Rugby World Cup 2011 rights-holding broadcaster NBC Sports, the tournament will enjoy full coverage via www.usarugby.org with all 16 matches being streamed live.
The format will see the teams that top the two pools – Pool A comprises Chile, Russia, Tonga and the hosts – face each other in the final on Saturday, June 30.
Canada kick-off against Georgia at 16:00 MST on Monday, June 18.
RUGBY CANADA TEAM TO FACE GEORGIA U20
1. Noah Barker - Vancouver Rowers (Courtenay, BC)
2. Casey Reed -Moosejaw Nads (Airdrie, AB)
3. Jake Ilnicki (c) - UVic Vikes/ Williams Lake Rustlers (Williams Lake, BC)
4. Andrew McGinn – JBAA (Victoria, BC)
5. Jacob Rumball - Balmy Beach Rugby Club (Toronto ON)
6. Matthew Heaton - St-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC (Godmanchester, QC)
7. Chase Kelliher - Capilano RFC (North Vancouver, BC)
8. Cam Stones – Ajax Wanderers (Witby, ON)
9. Andrew Ferguson - Oakville Crusaders (Mississauga ON)
10. Conor McCann – Balmy Beach RFC (Toronto, ON)
11. Josh Hart - Cowichan RFC (Minitonas, MB)
12. Michael Fuailefau -UVIC Vikes (Victoria, BC)
13. Taylor Paris – Ontario Blues (Barrie, ON)
14. Lucas Hammond – Toronto Nomads (Toronto, ON)
15. Jon West - Markham Irish RFC (Scarborough, ON)
16. Eric Selvaggi - Aurura Barbarians (Woodbridge, ON)
17. Alex Marshall -Vandals RFC/The Rock (St. John's, NL)
18. Ryan Monahan - Baymen Rugby Club, The Rock (CBS, NL)
19. Jared Douglas - Abbotsford RFC ( Abbotsford, BC)
20. Gradyn Bowd - Red Deer Titans (Red Deer, AB)
21. Patrick Kay -UVIC Vikes (Duncan, BC)
22. Mike Dalsin – Castaway Wanderers (Victoria, BC)
June 18 vs. Georgia U20 at Utah
June 22 vs. Japan U20 at Utah
June 26 vs. Zimbabwe U20 at Utah
June 30 Finals at Utah
Where to watch the JWRT
The JWRT reflects Rugby’s growth and is a key part of the IRB’s commitment to growing the Game beyond its traditional heartlands. With teams involved from South America, North America, Asia, Europe, Oceania and Africa, this truly is a global tournament.
And Rugby fans across the world can savour every try, tackle and pass as all 16 matches are streamed live for the first time and available all over the world. The streaming can be accessed through KSL.
The IRB will also make available to the media regular updates, match reports, rights-free photographs and audio interviews via the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 official website.
For the first time, the JWRT is also fully social and interactive as the IRB provide daily digital updates and fans can have their say by tweeting @irbjuniors or following via Facebook.