L to R: Elias Ergas (Capilano RFC), Cali Martinez (Bayside AA)
VANCOUVER, BC - BC Elite Youth Sevens head coach Shane Thompson announced his roster today for the program's upcoming tour to Hong Kong, slated for March 23-30, 2014. A total of 12 players from across the province will head to the rugby hotbed for the world-renowned IRB Hong Kong Sevens and will be competing in the Standard Chartered Bank International Youth Sevens.
The BC under-18s will have a packed itinerary on their tour including training with international programs and academies, meeting the Canadian national team, watching the IRB Sevens and the players will also be doing a bit of sightseeing around one of the world's most vibrant cities.
"Being able to take these young players on a tour like this is a unique opportunity," said Thompson. "It's always a great experience to see the IRB Sevens events live and it will be even more special for these guys to take in Hong Kong, known as one of the more traditional, historic tournaments."
The BCEY7s program is fresh off their tour to Las Vegas where the under-18s placed second in the High Elite Division at the USA Sevens Las Vegas Invitational, falling to national team USA High School All Americans. BC's junior squad, made up largely of under-17 reps, lost in over time of the semifinals of the High School Open division. Thompson's Hong Kong squad is a blend of experience and youth drawing from each team that competed in Vegas this past January.
"Selecting a team for the BCEY7s Hong Kong tour was a very difficult process due to exceptionally strong performances by the members of all three teams at the Las Vegas Invitational," said Thompson. "The selection process for the Hong Kong tour was based on availability of athletes, fitness level, speed, field knowledge, as well as the ability to play various positions and future potential of the athlete."
One young player Thompson has been especially impressed by is Elias Ergas, a 16-year-old 10th grader out of Collingwood School in West Vancouver.
"Elias proved in Las Vegas that he can play at the U18 level and I believe that with more experience, he can get to that next level faster," said Thompson. "He is a really fast player with plenty of potential."
The only returning member from 2013's undefeated squad is North Vancouver's Cole Keffer, who like Ergas is a product of rugby club Capilano RFC. Keffer was a dominant force for BC's under-18s in Vegas, scoring a try in the Elite Cup final against national side USA High School All Americans.
"Cole is a very dynamic player and his abilities in both attack and defence are fantastic," added Thompson. "He's the only guy that's been to Hong Kong and I'm really just looking for him to keep playing the way he played in Vegas."
A key player for BC will be Abbotsford RFC and Yale Secondary product Jason Hignell. A bruising tackler and excellent ball poacher, Hignell was also a standout in Vegas, captaining BC for two games and starting in every fixture.
"Jason is an aggressive player who does a lot of the hard work on the ground," Thompson said. "His defence is really solid and I'm hoping that he continues to be a leader and shares his experience with some of the younger guys on this tour."
Another heavy hitter includes Shawnigan Lake School and Cowichan Rugby's George Barton, who as an 11th grader has shown plenty of potential. Fellow Shawnigan reps going to Hong Kong include Tyler Beselt (Shawnigan, BC) and 2013 BC U17 Captain Wesley Wong (Hong Kong).
Bayside Sharks product Joseph Carter (Cloverdale) was also a key player in BC's runner-up performance in the Elite division in Vegas. Liam Mahon (West Vancouver), Matt Gallagher (South Surrey), Ryan Gray (Sydney, Aus.) and Aaron Hersant were all important contributors in Vegas on the BC junior team. White Rock's Cali Martinez will provide some size to the front row and will be relied on for his physicality at the breakdown. Each player on the 2014 BCEY7s roster is also a product of the BC Rugby Academy program.
Standard Chartered Bank International Youth Sevens
British Columbia are two-time defending champions heading into the Hong Kong Youth Sevens and are undefeated in the past two years of competition. This year's field is set to feature local Hong Kong rugby clubs as well as competition from Singapore, Dubai, China, Japan and Russia. The competition is currently slated for King's Park Sports Ground.
BC Elite Youth Sevens Roster - Hong Kong 2014 Tour
1. George Barton (Shawnigan Lake School / Cowichan Rugby Club / Duncan, BC)
2. Tyler Beselt (Shawnigan Lake School / Cowican Rugby Club / Shawnigan, BC)
3. Joseph Carter (Lord Tweedsmuir / Bayside AA / Cloverdale, BC)
4. Elias Ergas (Collingwood School / Capilano RFC / Vancouver, BC)
5. Matt Gallagher (Semiahmoo / Bayside AA / South Surrey, BC)
6. Ryan Gray (Mulgrave / Capilano RFC / Sydney, Australia)
7. Aaron Hersant (Brentwood College / Victoria, BC)
8. Jason Hignell (Yale Secondary / Abbotsford RFC / Abbotsford, BC)
9. Cole Keffer (Sutherland Secondary / Capilano RFC / North Vancouver, BC)
10. Liam Mahon (West Van Secondary / Capilano RFC / West Vancouver, BC)
11. Cali Martinez (Earl Marriott / Bayside AA / White Rock, BC)
12. Wesley Wong (Shawnigan Lake School / Hong Kong)
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.
The BC Elite Youth Sevens program is proudly sponsored by Adera.