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Written By: Karen Gasbarino-Knutt
In two weeks, Saskatchewan Rugby and North Saskatchewan Rugby, in concert with Rugby Canada, will host the Women’s Canadian Rugby Championship at the Saskatoon Rugby Club.
The event will take place from July 15-22 and will showcase the emerging talents in Women’s Rugby and Under 19 Men’s rugby, as well as provide the venue for the growing popularity of the Senior Women’s battle for first.
The teams taking part in the Women’s CRC are reigning champions Ontario Blues, along with 2017 runners up Equipe Quebec, as well as the British Columbia Bears, Nova Scotia Keltics, and Prairie Wolfpack.
Bears and Wolf Pack will open proceedings on July 16. In 2017, Ontario swept proceedings and were crowned champions after defeating the Wolf Pack in their final match to take the championship. Quebec then beat Wolf Pack to take second overall, with the BC Bears coming in third.
This year the Bears mean to upset Ontario and prevent a fifth straight title. With powerhouse players who are proven on the pitch such as international players Jess Neilson and Tyson Beukeboom, and members of Canadian Rugby family legacies such as Sophie de Goede, they may be successful.
However, Ontario has plans of their own. They intend to keep hold of the title in the hopes that players such as Cindy Nelles of the Belleville Bulldogs, Laura Russell of Toronto Nomads (as well as most recent Captain of the Canadian National team) are able to achieve that goal.
Ontario has much experience at the senior level. Russell brings incredible leadership to the table, and players that include all three Svoboda sisters of Brantford Harlequins (Katie, Tia and Sara, featured in a former profile piece here) being named to the roster may mean that taking the crown from Ontario will be a near impossible task for any of the opposing teams.
The Keltics and Equipe Quebec will be competitive as well, also as they will have seasoned veterans in their midst (we also did a piece on the fine Nova Scotia organization here, if you’d like to catch up with them before the championships).
Many of the same players return to the CRC this year that featured in the 2017 championship, with some of them going on to represent Canada at the World Cup in Ireland last Autumn.
Considered Canada’s premier series to nurture players bound for the national team, the CRC’s level of competition is crucial for growing rugby in Canada. Case in point – four of the five players who scored tries for the Blues in last year’s final return to the fray this year: Emily Barber, Daria Keane, Julia Schell, and Lauren Walkden. Only Natasha Smith is not named to the long list of Ontario players up for selection to the team headed to CRC.
Dustin Hopkins, Rugby Canada’s Interim General Manager, said in a recent press release: “The CRC tournaments, from the age-grade level to senior, are critical pathways to Canada’s national teams. These competitions provide players with the opportunity to continue their development in high-quality matches while providing national team coaching staff a great chance to scout talent from coast-to-coast.”
Damon Leonard, President of Saskatchewan Rugby Union, concurred. He added that shining the spotlight on rugby for an entire week was a great way to grow the sport.
“We are excited to welcome the young men and women from across Canada to Saskatoon this summer. With help from the City of Saskatoon there are many events for parents and other children traveling to watch the athletes as well. We take pride in hosting the rest of the country in our province and hope you see all there!”
In total, Saskatoon Rugby will host over 450 players from the three competitions. It is one of the best avenues to grow the game of rugby in Canada, as many of these players will continue to represent their provincial unions at the highest level, and most share the common goal of playing for Canada.
These tournaments are crucial for Canada to be able to compete on the world stage. Many of the players that have gone on to represent Canada after plying their trade in their provincial unions have been instrumental in team success.
The Women's tournament is played over the six days in round-robin style, with the winner taking the championship based on points earned on aggregate.
This year’s Rugby Week festivities open with a Rugby Festival and fun day in Saskatoon. Details will be available on the website (link below) as well as up to date information.
Fixtures for the Women’s Canadian Rugby Championships:
Scores, stats and additional information can be found at: http://www.canadianrugbychampionship.com