VANCOUVER - From 2008 through 2010, the Vancouver Under-20 men's rugby program were the undisputed champions in British Columbia. At the time, they were competing against Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley in the Pacific Division of the now annulled National Junior Championship. Vancouver advanced to three straight national finals, winning their most recent in 2009 with a 41-21 win over the Toronto Rebellion. In 2011, the competition morphed into the Dunbar Keg U20 competition and eventually saw Vancouver Island defeat the Fraser Valley to take the provincial championship.
Boasting a roster stacked with provincial team athletes, the 2013 edition of the Vancouver U20s will look to get back to their winning ways.
While this will be a competition about regional pride, it will also be an opportunity for some of the province's emerging talents to put their hands up for selection to future provincial and national teams. Canada's Under-20 men's team will be competing at the 2013 Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile this year and the Dunbar Keg series will be another platform for BC players to state their case for selection.
This Saturday's clash between Vancouver and Vancouver Island will be played at Westhills Stadium, home of Rugby Canada's Centre of Excellence, located just a stone's throw away from U20 Coach Mike Shelley's offices.
"Our players have realized that this will be an excellent opportunity to show what they can do outside their club," said Vancouver's coach Curry Hitchborn. "They really back each other and are excited to play at this age grade."
A heavy-hitter on this year's Vancouver roster is Jordan Harvey, BC's former U18 captain and a Canada U19 graduate. Harvey and several of his Vancouver team mates were in Victoria this past weekend attending a Canada U20 trial camp.
"We will be competing against a lot of guys we know really well and we will definitely be out to get each other. It comes down to the fact that you always have to be playing your best," said Harvey.
Already playing premier level rugby with the North Shore's Capilano RFC, the Dunbar Keg competition will see Harvey reunited with a number of BC U18 graduates now playing at other clubs.
"We will have a really strong team with a lot of guys from UBC. A bunch of us played BC together and came through the ranks and that will definitely benefit us," Harvey added. "We have been playing senior men's but this will be a great experience to be playing together again."
Some familiar faces suiting up for Vancouver include BC provincial team graduates and current UBC standouts Charlie Thorpe, Jorden Best and Liam Murphy-Burke. Captaining Vancouver's squad will be Connor Hamilton, a proven leader who led Vancouver's U18s to a provincial title last July and then played an instrumental role in BC defending their national title in Quebec last August.
The competition will also provide younger players in BC's first division clubs a chance to stand out at the rep level. Two names already impressing are Scyler Dumas and Sean Hickson of Vancouer Rowing Club.
"The trials and training sessions have been going very well and we've had good representation from a number of clubs," Hitchborn added. "The Rowers sent through some studs in Scyler and Sean - two players that you could really build a team around."
Vancouver's first test will be this weekend against Vancouver Island, a team with plenty of talent to draw from.
"We have a number of guys that are hungry to prove their worth and this weekend will be a very tough contest," Hitchborn added. "We have a very physical side and they have shown they are not a mistake-prone group. If we can adapt quickly to whatever is in front of us we will be able to dictate the pace as early as possible."
Kickoff for Saturday's U20 Dunbar Keg match is set for 1:15pm at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
BC RUGBY CUPS COMPETITIONS
Date: Saturday, January 26th
Vancouver at Vancouver Island
Location: Westhills Stadium, Langford (1089 Langford Parkway)
Kickoff Times: 11:30am Ruth Hellerud Brown Cup; 1:15pm U20 Dunbar Cup; 3:00pm McKechnie Cup
Admission Fee: $10
The BC Rugby Cups Competitions are a series of representative rugby matches to be played over three weekends. The series gets underway this Saturday, January 26th with the Vancouver Island Rugby Union hosting the Vancouver Rugby Union. The competition will provide BC athletes the opportunity to further profile their abilities for both Provincial and national team selectors. On February 2nd, Vancouver Island's teams will travel to Abbotsford to battle Fraser Valley Rugby Union and the final leg of the series will feature Fraser Valley's programs away to Vancouver.