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Written By: Doug Crosse
It was an email from Australian John Eales that delivered the news that Al Charron was in an exclusive club. The World Cup winner and iconic leader of the Wallabies in the 1990s also happens to be the Chairman of the World Rugby Hall of Fame, and was writing to inform and welcome Big Al into a very impressive and highly thought of group of players, including fellow Canadian Gareth Rees. In part, the email read: “It gives me great pleasure - to notify you of your selection as one of the five nominees for induction to the Hall of Fame in 2017.”
One of the most dominant loose forwards in the world during the 1990s, Charron played in four Rugby World Cups for Canada and helped managed the side at a fifth, in 2007.
His Canadian record of 76 total caps stood for 14 years until broken just this past summer, though his record for starting caps is still for the moment very much the standard bearer. Standing 6’4 at 250 pounds for most of his playing days, he was at home playing in the tight and in the loose.
As a mark of respect for his contribution to rugby – not only in Canada, but worldwide – Rugby Canada’s national training centre slated for opening in early 2018 will bear his name.
Charron had many interesting moments as a player and many fond memories.
What follow are a few key recollections:
The team he reveres the most being a part of? The always humble Charron is quick to point out that all 76 test matches were an honour, but he does feel the cohort from 1989 to 1995 or so saw some of the best rugby Canada has produced.
“We beat Argentina twice, Scotland, Fiji, Wales, an England A team packed with future stars. We beat France in Ottawa and they would go on to beat New Zealand twice on their tour upon leaving Canada,” Charron says with a smile in his voice.
His toughest match comes to him easily. Taking on Fiji in Nadi in April of 1995. Coming off a shoulder dislocation and four-month lay-off over a cold Canadian winter, Canada took on the Islanders in stifling nearly 100 percent humidity and temperatures near 40.
“I wore a neoprene vest for my shoulder that unfortunately kept my body temperature in,” he recounts. “It was the first time playing for Canada that I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the match and I was just 5 minutes in!”
One person removed from being out of subs, Charron stayed in the game well past his abilities, suffering not only from heat stroke, but also a blow to the head and illness entering the match.
“The team doctor described it as being the closest thing he ever came to seeing a guy die on the field, and then I played a week later against New Zealand,” says Charron.
His favourite try? His most important is the five-pointer in injury time against Wales in November 1993 which saw the game tie with only the simple Gareth Rees conversion for the memorable win. But his favourite is yet another team try from the 1995 World Cup against Romania, a 34-5 victory.
“That was a real team try, with a number of great passes and switches,” he recalls. Canada launched an aimless kick down the pitch, with Romania returning the favour. “Scott Stewart fielded it at pace,” he continued. “There were switches between (Scott Stewart), Dave Lougheed and Christian Stewart, who then found Winston Stanley with an off-load before Winnie hit me at full stride. A cracker of a try.”
And a cracker of a career for World Rugby Hall of Famer Al Charron!