NOTE: Be sure to check out UBC's new website at www.ubcrugby.com
VANCOUVER, BC - A wave of new recruits, key additions to the coaching staff and a core of returning veterans has the storied UBC men's rugby program on track for success.
A brand new facility - provided by a passionate alumni base and key partnerships - will play host to a number of club and inter-university matches as the Thunderbirds look to re-establish themselves as a top-tier program.
Just two weeks into the Okanagan Spring Brewery League season, UBC has already secured bonus point wins over Bayside (51-0) and Richmond (25-7). The club will face Surrey on Saturday, with a 2:30 kickoff on their brand new field in front of the Gerald McGavin Pavilion.
Head Coach Rameses Langston has been pleased with his squad, welcoming experienced recruits to an already flourishing young talent pool with provincial and junior national team credentials.
"Our goal this year is to be an outstanding development program," Langston said. "We've made it about the development of our players and skills with the ultimate goal to show character, work hard and breathe a culture of wanting to be better."
With a bevy of Canada U20 reps returning from a second place finish at the Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile, competition for starting spots on the Thunderbirds roster is already underway. Alex Mascott (Vancouver) is making an impact in the forwards, as is Manitoba product Thomas Roche who comes to UBC via Meralomas.
Returning Abbotsford product and Canada U19 grad, Paul Ahn has broken into the first team this season and is a prime example of the pathway within UBC's program. Captaining the Thunderbirds is Canada U20 graduate Charlie Thorpe, a mobile back row who leads with his tenacious tackling and physicality at the breakdown.
Key additions to also note include bruising centre Nate Rees who has CDI Premier League experience with Capilano RFC. Ben Grant (Vancouver), a product of St. George's and UVic has also returned to ply his trade in BC competition after returning from his studies in Saskatchewan.
Standout recruits also include a graduate of the Ulster-A program in Irish rep James Thompson. BC Rugby Academy graduate Quinton Willms (White Rock) is also a key piece of the Thunderbird offence, capable of suiting up at both 10 and 15.
Preseason saw plenty of hard work put in by the students at a week-long training camp and the program has burst out of the gates with 2-0 records for the Thunderbirds and Braves. The Totems, UBC's, third div side are currently level at 1-1. The Under-20 side is already finding their rhythm and are 1-0 heading into this Saturday's clash with Capilano.
"There is a lot of good energy and the guys are excited about the new season," Langston added. "There has been great buy-in from the players and our coaching staff. We are fortunate to have the new addition of Curry HItchborn to the program as well and you can already see the influence he has had."
Hitchborn led the Vancouver Under-20 rep team to a Dunbar Keg Provincial title this past February and was the head coach of BC's U17 provincial team at Nationals.
A provincial champion coach with Capilano's U17 program, Hitchborn joins a coaching staff with plenty of experience. Head coach Rameses Langston is leading the program with Director of Rugby Spence McTavish. Pat Fleck will play an important role with the men's sevens program with Alasdiar Hamilton leading the Third Div Hawks and Kas Futawatari also an assistant coach.
UBC will be looking to challenge for a provincial title this year and will soon be squaring off against UVic for the annual Wightman Boot and Cal-Berkley for the storied 'World Cup'. The Thunderbirds will also be in prime position to contest for a national title this winter in the annual Rugby Canada University Sevens Championships.
"Obviously it's nice to win but we're not going to make that the judgement of whether we have been successful," Langston added. "We will put our front foot forward but the most important thing is for us to become a really well-respected club in North America."
For more information on the UBC Rugby program visit www.ubcrugby.com and follow twitter.com/ubcrugby for scores and scheduling updates.