VANCOUVER - The defending national champions British Columbia U18 men's provincial rugby team kicks off their title defence on Wednesday morning in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The U18 roster will feature a number of junior players pushing for starting positions as well as a tested core of veterans who will be looking for a repeat performance at this year's Rugby Canada National Championship Festival.
The players assembled for their final camp in North Vancouver this past weekend where returning head coach Jeff Williams was impressed with the team's final preparations before flying out on Monday morning.
"Since we saw the guys a couple weeks ago in camp at Shawnigan, they have really put in the work. Everybody is fit and ready to go," Williams said. "We could tell from the level of intensity at our sessions that the players have bought into the system and are ready to prove themselves."
Williams and co-coach Rameses Langston have selected a core leadership group who they call the 'voice' of the team. The veterans meet with the coaches daily, providing feedback and are the leaders on the pitch. Of the seven clubs the entire roster is selected from, the leaders represent six from across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
The group includes four standouts from the BC Elite Youth Sevens program and BC Rugby Academy, each of whom represented Canada at the Youth Commonwealth Games this past September. They include Jorden Best (Abbotsford RFC), Nathan Yanagiya (Capilano RFC), Haydn Evans (Cowichan Rugby Club) and Fergus Hall (Castaway Wanderers RFC). Best and Hall were also selected to represent the Canadian national U19 team this past Fall on their tour of England. Also in the leadership group are standouts Quinton Willms (Bayside AA) and Connor Hamilton (Vancouver Rowing Club).
Pushing for roster spots on this year's squad include Canada U17 players Harjun Gill (Richmond RFC) and Randall Barton (Cowichan Rugby Club) as well as junior provincial standout Rob Fenton (UBCOB Ravens).
"It's great to see some of the talent coming through and I think BC Rugby's system has done a great job of developing the next crop of players," added Williams. "Randy will probably be one of our starters and will anchor the front row. Harjun is a great player to coach with lots of enthusiasm and I think he will be one to watch, as will Rob Fenton who is in the mix for starting at flanker."
While eight members of this year's squad were a part of the 2011 championship winning roster, Williams says the players are well aware this is a brand new season.
"We have been telling the guys that 'last year was last year'," Williams added. "We have started the process over completely and I have been telling them that our goal is to 'out work the opposition'. We can only worry about ourselves and you can tell by the intensity of our last few sessions that the players know that. I'm excited to see these guys compete together and hopefully come home with the gold medal."
The team kicks off their campaign on August 8th at Bishop's University. Day passes for spectators are $10. Weekend passes are $15 and tournament passes are $25. For more information visit events.rugbycanada.ca
2012 National Championships Schedule
9:00am Wed. August 8th: BC vs Ontario-2
4:00pm Wed. August 8th: BC vs Newfoundland
9:00am Thurs. August 9th: BC vs Manitoba
4:00pm Thurs. August 9th: BC vs Nova Scotia
Friday August 10th: Day Off
Saturday August 11th: Playoff Rounds
Sunday August 12th: Placement Finals
2011 Round-Robin Record: 4-0 (1st)
2011 Gold Medal Final: BC 38-33 Ontario
BC U18 Team Staff
Coach: Jeff Williams
Coach: Rameses Langston
Manager: Shane Thompson
Therapist: Kim Yae
BC U18 men's roster:
Randall Barton (Cowichan Rugby Club)
Kirk Bonnis (Vancouver Rowing Club)
Chad Carlsen (Capilano RFC)
Neil Courtney (Capilano RFC)
Jorden De Graaf (BC Elite Youth 7s / Provincial Team)
Justin Douglas (Abbotsford RFC)*
Haydn Evans (Cowichan Rugby Club)*
Robert Fenton (UBCOB Ravens)
Keegan Fletcher (Vancouver Rowing Club)
Harjun Gill (Richmond RFC)
Fergus Hall (Castaway Wanderers)*
Connor Hamilton (Vancouver Rowing Club)*
Michael Harvey (Capilano RFC)
Nathaniel Hight (Brit Lions RFC)
Dylan Kiselbach (Bayside AA)
Karsten Leitner (UBCOB Ravens)
Ian McMaster (Bayside AA)
Cole Mosychuk (BCRU provincial team / Kelowna)
JD Paul (Abbotsford RFC)
James Pitblado (Vancouver Rowing Club)
Jorden Sandover-Best (Abbotsford RFC)*
Reid Tucker (Capilano RFC)*
Connor Weyell (Capilano RFC)
Quinton Willms (Bayside AA)*
Nathan Yanagiya (Capilano RFC)*
*Denotes players from 2011 BC U18 roster