Harjun Gill (L) and Cole Keffer (R) are headed to Hong Kong
VANCOUVER - Head Coach of the BC Elite Youth Sevens program Shane Thompson has announced his traveling roster of 12 players headed to the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Bank Youth International Sevens in March. This will be just the second tour in the program's history to travel outside of North America.
Fresh off their February tour to Las Vegas where they finished as runners-up to national side USA High School All-Americans in the Cup Final, the BC U18 provincial seven-a-side team will be competing on March 22nd against a field of teams from Thailand, SIngapore and Hong Kong.
"This tour is really important for our program because it mirrors how the national team travels when competing in the [International Rugby Board] Sevens World Series," said Thompson. "These guys will be traveling long distances in a short period of time and will have to experience what it's like to adjust to different time zones and prepare for an international tournament in a completely new surrounding. It's all part of the learning curve."
This year's itinerary includes training sessions with the Hong Kong Rugby Academy, the world-renowned touring Penguins Sevens program and of course taking in the famed Hong Kong International Sevens, the world's most storied seven-a-side tournament.
Taking in the senior men's international event will also provide BC's emerging players with the opportunity to see the Canadian men's national team in action. Canada has been on a roll on this year's circuit winning the Bowl in Wellington, New Zealand before capturing the Plate at this year's Las Vegas Sevens.
"It's important for our guys to see Canada competing on the world stage because it gives them first hand experience of the opportunities that lay ahead," added Thompson. "Any time we have the chance to support our national team it's great for our program as we look to graduate more players to the senior men's level."
Last year's BC team went undefeated at the 2012 youth tournament, scoring 22 tries in four matches to lift their second international title of the season. In round-robin play the BC provincial team blanked Hong Kong club side Dea Tigers-II 63-0, downed Hong-Kong club side Flying Kukris 40-0, and beat Thai club Bangkok-Lions 28-0. The Cup Final was a much closer affair where BC handed Dea Tigers-I a 21-0 defeat.
The only returning player from last year's championship winning side is Abbotsford's Spencer Miller, an electric scrum half who traveled with the BC Elite Youth Sevens program to all three major tournaments in 2012. Fellow Abbotsford standout Joey Campbell has also proven to be an impact sevens player and will join Miller on tour.
Vancouver's St. George's School will be well represented with four players selected including Harjun Gill, Karsten Leitner, Peter Stockton and Theo Sauder.
A breakout junior player on the roster is North Vancouver's 16-year-old Cole Keffer. The Capilano RFC standout was a dominant force in Vegas making try-saving tackles on numerous occasions and producing several try scoring runs in both the Elite and Open High School Divisions.
"Cole had an outstanding tournament in Vegas and continues to develop into a top level sevens player. I'm definitely looking forward to having him around for at least another year as he is a really capable half back," Thompson added.
Two more Capilano RFC products include James Oswald and Oliver Smith. A dynamic player with the ability to excel in multiple positions, Smith was a defensive and offensive threat in Vegas and his pace will be a real asset.
Bayside Athletic Association reps include speedsters Shane Dagg and Tomasi Vataiki. Castaway Wanderers standout Evan Cambridge will be representing Vancouver Island and will provide the muscle in BC's front row.
The full schedule and player pools for the Standard Chartered Bank Youth International Sevens will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
BC U18 Sevens Roster:
1. Evan Cambridge (Castaway Wanderers / Oak Bay High School)
2. Joey Campbell (Abbotsford RFC / Sardis Secondary)
3. Shane Dagg (Bayside AA / South Delta Secondary)
4. Harjun Gill (Richmond RFC / St. George's School)
5. Cole Keffer (Capilano RFC / Sutherland Secondary)
6. Karsten Leitner (UBCOB Ravens / St. George's School)
7. Spencer Miller (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary)
8. James Oswald (Capilano RFC / West Van High)
9. Theo Sauder (Vancouver Rowing Club / St. George's School)
10. Oliver Smith (Capilano RFC / Seycove Secondary School)
11. Peter Stockton (Kats RFC / St. George's School)
12. Tomasi Vataiki (Bayside AA / Earl Marriot Secondary)
Head Coach: Shane Thompson
Manager: Doug Tate
Physio: Gareth Adams
About the BCEY7s program
As a result of rugby sevens being included into the Olympic games for 2016 and 2020, the British Columbia Rugby Union created the Elite Youth Sevens program. The sevens academy is designed to help develop young athletes into the rugby players who will be best qualified to represent Canada with distinction at future Olympic Games and Rugby World Cups. The program is geared towards identifying, training and developing athletes who can go on to represent their Regions, their Province and Canada at Age Grade Level and beyond.