VICTORIA - When national team head coach Kieran Crowley announced the Canadian roster for the upcoming America's Rugby Championship, a number of familiar faces made up the British Columbia contingency of the squad. The list included capped James Bay standouts Connor Braid and Sean White as well as Canada U20 players Clayton Meeres and Pat Kay. The fifth BC player to make the cut - Aaron Flagg - was more of an unknown to the national scene.
At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Flagg is a force to be reckoned with. The 23-year-old Abbotsford RFC standout has excelled at the club level and his coach Jason Young is excited to see him breaking onto the national scene after performing well at the rep level with the Pacific Tyee and BC's U23 provincial team.
"He is one of those guys that you knew it was going to happen as he's versatile at both tight head [prop] and in the second row. I just didn't expect it to happen this fast for him," said Young. "He was a diamond in the rough. I first noticed him at our Valley U20 trials and right then we knew he was an athlete. He needed some work but he already had a great attitude and he always worked hard in practice."
Flagg's Valley U20 debut lasted just 10 minutes when he broke his collar bone, but that wasn't the last opportunity he had to make an impression on his new coach. Seeking a higher level of competition, Flagg moved to Abbotsford RFC where he has been making an impact in the Premier and Okanagan Spring Brewery Leagues.
"He was our best forward last year and has been a huge help to our club," Young added. "He needs more development and he is willing to learn. As a coach you really can't ask for a better guy with his work rate and how he fits in with the team. For a big guy he is fleet of foot and he's quite a load when he's running at full speed"
After playing at Sardis Secondary and then a year of senior rugby with the Chilliwack Crusaders, Flagg has recently played three seasons at Abbotsford with Young at the helm. This past summer Flagg featured for BC"s U23 team against St. Andrew's and Durham University and then played for John MacMillan and the Pacific Tyee this in the Canadian Rugby Championship.
"The competition was definitely a higher level. During one of my games for the Tyee, [Canadian Coach] Kieran Crowley saw me play. Afterwards he came up and said he was impressed with what he saw," Flagg said of his selection. "This is something I've been working towards for quite a while so I'm really excited."
The only BC forward selected for the ARC, Flagg will be scrumming down against elite internationals from Uruguay, USA and Argentina over the next two weeks. Canada's first game is against Uruguay on Friday, October 12th at 7:30pm. A total of 24 players on Uruguay's 26-man roster have been capped at the full international level and boast nearly 150 caps between them.
All matches will be held at Westhills Stadium in Langford, BC. For more information on the ARC, visit www.americasrugbychampionship.com and to purchase tickets visit tickets.rugbycanada.ca
Friday, October 12th
USA v Argentina Kick off at 5:30pm PT
Canada v. Uruguay Kick off at 7:30pm PT
Tuesday, October 16th
Uruguay v Argentina Kick off at 5:30pm PT
Canada v. USA Kick off at 7:30pm PT
Saturday, October 20th
Uruguay v USA Kick off at 5:30pm PT
Canada v. Argentina Kick off at 7:30pm PT
Team Canada for ARC
NAME (Club/CRC Club) Hometown
Tyler Ardron (Brantford Harlequins/Ontario Blues) Lakefield, ON
Kyle Armstrong (Castaway Wanderers / Ajax Wanderers/Ontario Blues) Whitby, ON
Ray Barkwill (Niagara, Oakville Crusaders/Ontario Blues) Port Colborne, ON
Nick Blevins (Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Connor Braid (James Bay AA/Pacific Tyee) Victoria, BC
Hubert Buydens (Castaway Wanderers /Saskatoon Wild Oats/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Alistair Clark (Oakville Crusaders/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Zac Coughlan (James Bay / Swilers RFC/The Rock) St. John‚s, NL
Aaron Flagg (Abbotsford RFC/Pacific Tyee) Abbotsford, BC
Josh Hart (Cowichan RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack) Minitonas, MB
Creag Johnston (Toronto Scottish/Ontario Blues) Woodbridge, ON
Pat Kay (UVic Vikes / Cowichan RFC/Pacific Tyee) Duncan, BC
Chris Long (L'Aquila Rugby 1936/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Clayton Meeres (James Bay / Abbotsford RFC/Pacific Tyee) Chilliwack, BC
Owen Parfrey (Swilers RFC /The Rock) St. John‚s, NL
Patrick Parfrey (Swilers RFC/The Rock) St. John‚s, NL
Seb Pearson (Lindsay RFC, London St. Georges/Ontario Blues) Lindsay, ON
Jon Phelan (St. Anne-de Bellevue/The Rock) Montreal, QC
Jacob Rumball (Balmy Beach/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Liam Underwood (Balmy Beach/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Sean White (James Bay AA/Pacific Tyee) Victoria, BC
Jordan Wilson Ross (Barrie RFC/Ontario Blues) Alliston, ON
Toni Wodzicki (Wanderers RFC/The Rock) Montreal, QC
Doug Wooldridge (Lindsay RFC/Ontario Blues) Lindsay, ON