LANGFORD, BC - Canada’s Under-20 men’s national program is headed to England for a 10 day warm-up tour ahead of the 2014 IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy (JWRT) in Hong Kong, which begins on April 7.
The U20 group leaves for England on Thursday, March 13, and will play three matches against premiership academy teams and will lodge in a hotel on the grounds of Leeds’ historic Headingley Stadium.
Following that they’ll return to the Canadian Rugby Centre for Excellence in Langford before flying to Hong Kong for the 2014 JWRT on April 2 in an attempt to better their second place finish from 2013 when they lost in the final to Italy 45-23.
Coach Mike Shelley helped put the tour together using contacts from his time as a professional player in Leeds in response to the IRB moving the JWRT from April 7 to 19. Last year it ran May 28 to June 9.
Canada’s warm up competition will be fairly stiff ahead of the JWRT as they face academy teams from the Leicester Tigers on Sunday, March 16, the Sale Sharks on Wednesday, March 19 and finally Leeds Carnegie on Saturday, March 22.
“These are in lieu of international fixtures we won’t get to play (such as the two-test series played against the U.S.A. in Minnesota prior to the 2013 JWRT),” Shelley said. “The opposition academies are the production lines for the Championship and Premiership leagues and produce a lot of England players so they’ll be a stern opposition, and can put out any level of team.”
In fact, the level of competition the academies will provide could be as strong, if not stronger, than what Canada will face in Hong Kong next month, he added.
“These games against aspiring young professionals will be a real test for our team and great preparation for Hong Kong. We’ll see players of a similar age in a pro environment, and it gives our squad exposure to the pro rugby game.”
Training will take place at two parks, the home of the Leeds Rugby Academy and West Park Leeds, Shelley’s old club. The head coach will be accompanied by assistants Graeme Moffat, returning from last year, and senior men’s head coach Kieran Crowley.
“We’ll have opportunities to see what works for us in game situation, because we don’t have an opportunity to play a lot of games with all the players in our roster. We want to see which parts of our game plan work offensively and defensively.”
Canada’s 27-man roster going to Leeds will closely resemble the 26 going to Hong Kong and it’s their last chance to prove themselves for the starting team in the JWRT.
Playing in Leeds is a touch of foreshadowing for one or two U20 hopefuls that could be on Canada’s senior team when it plays Italy in Leeds 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Canada men’s U20 England Tour Roster
Name, Club, School
Liam Beaulieu, Bayside Sharks
MacBryan Bos, University of Victoria, University of Victoria
Andrew Coe, Markham Irish
Neil Courtney, University of BC
Charles Debove, SABRFC/James Bay
Graham Dobbs, McMaster University, McMaster University
Justin Douglas, Abbotsford Rugby Club, University of Victoria
Joe Erlic, University of Victoria, University of Victoria
Roddy Giles, Newcastle Falcons Academy (Newcastle, England), Sedbergh School
Harjun Gill, University of British Columbia
Connor Hamilton (Captain), University of British Columbia
Matt Harrison, Assassins RFC/UBCOB Ravens
Sam Hayward, Sydney University Football Club, Sydney University
Sawyer Herron, Oakville Crusaders/University of Victoria
Josh Larsen, Taieri Rugby Club (New Zealand), University of Otago
Ben Lesage, Calgary Canucks, University of British Columbia
Adam McQueen, Queen's University, Queen's University
Matt Mullins, Belleville Bulldogs/Queen's University, Queen's University
James Pitblado, University of Victoria, University of Victoria
Lucas Rumball, Queen’s University, Queen's University
Jorden Sandover-Best, UBC Thunderbirds, University of British Columbia
Djustice Sears-Duru, Castaway Wanderers, Camosun College
Simon Sexton, Ealing Trailfinders (Camberley, England)
Jack Smith, Peterborough Pagans/James Bay
Reid Tucker, University of Victoria, University of Victoria
Max Van Dijk, Oakville Crusaders/University of Guelph, University of Guelph
Nathan Yanagiya, University of Victoria, University of Victoria
Canada Men’s U20 coaching staff
Mike Shelley, Coach
Kieran Crowley, Assistant coach
Graeme Moffatt, Assistant coach
Todd Silverthorn, Manager
Anthony Dixon, Doctor
Jessica Smith, Therapist