York hosts growing Rugby Canada event for third year

 rugby crowd

Above: Fans are flocking to York for this weekend’s international rugby match between Canada and Wales

York Stadium will be rugby central Saturday as Canada plays Wales in an international match that is the main attraction in a whole day of games and activities at the Keele campus playing fields.

This is the third summer that York has hosted international rugby. Last year’s match between Canada and France set an attendance record for rugby in Ontario and this year, Rugby Canada is looking to set a new record, possibly as high as 12,000 spectators. Last year’s game attracted more than 8,000 fans and required additional temporary bleachers.

rugby actionThere will be a strong York presence during the day’s events. York student Jeff Feeney, an intern with Rugby Canada and former member of the York Lions’ men’s team, has been busy helping with preparations for the event. Student volunteers from York’s Sports Administration Certificate Program will assist with operations and York caterers from Sodexho will be busy seeing to the food requirements of hungry rugby fans. Rugby Canada also held a fundraising dinner in Winter’s Dining Hall on Wednesday evening.

Right: Canada’s Morgan Williams plays in 2003 match against Wales

York Stadium will echo with the sounds of the Toronto/Burlington Welsh Male Choir, just one of several events in the day-long program that features games by teams of all ages. Prior to the Canada-Wales game, which begins at 3pm, Ontario will play Cardiff RFC in a senior men’s match at 11:30am. Following the international match, Ontario will play Quebec in a senior women’s game at 5:15pm.

The fields south of the Ice Palace will see a minor rugby showcase with teams of 8 and 10 year-olds playing non-contact flag rugby and and a Rugby Canada skills camp for players 8-14.

In the upper practice field west of the stadium, Ontario’s under-14s will play the West All-stars at 9:30am followed by games between high-school teams from Barrie, Durham and Kawartha regions at 11am and 12:30pm.

Senior women’s development teams from Quebec and Ontario will play at 9:30am on the middle practice field followed by games between high schools from Waterloo and Wellington regions at 11am and 12:30pm.

Welsh Manager Alan Philips, said he is anticipating a tougher game from Canada than Wales encountered in its 77-3 win over the US Eagles last weekend in Hartford, Connecticut. This is the ninth meeting between the two nations with Wales holding a 7-1 advantage. “We are treating this like any other international and we are preparing for Saturday’s match just like we would if we were playing a Six Nations match,” Philips said.

Canadian coach Ric Suggitt said his team is looking forward to playing Wales and is taking a very positive approach to the match. “I think our attitude has improved dramatically this season and because of our recent wins in Japan, we have regained confidence in ourselves,” said Suggitt. “Our team morale is high, and we have some very up-beat guys in the squad taking leading roles in keeping things positive.”

The Canada vs Wales match will be televised live on Sportsnet and in Britain on BBC Wales. For more information about the match and an event schedule, visit the Rugby Canada Web site.