2014 Rugby Ontario Focus Group

The 2014 Rugby Ontario Referee Focus Group had their kick-off camp this past weekend in Markham, Ont.

The Focus Group consists of 12 promising referees, who are ready to continue their development as match officials. The Focus Group’s objective is to take these eager referees and provide them with training and development resources, which they can use to grow as referees.

The Focus Group’s first weekend together saw the group members attend various workshops, which will set down a good foundation for growth and development in each individual. The Focus Group is led by Andrew McMaster and Greg Williams. Over the weekend, the group had special presentations held by former Welsh international Lisa Newton, and current Markham Irish head coach Rodin Lozada.

The Focus Group members and leaders will meet four more times this year. They will be attending: the National Capital Youth Rugby Festival in Ottawa, Ont., the Ontario Summer Games in Windsor, Ont., the Rugby Ontario Jr. Cup in Markham, Ont., and the men’s leg of the University Sevens Tournament in Kingston, Ont.

Focus Group Members:

Michael Hargrave (Maxwell, Ont.)
Khalil Bheriani (Aurora, Ont.)
Sam Jones (Erin, Ont.)
Susan Heald (Burlington, Ont.)
Ben Stinson (Kingston, Ont.)
Mario Shelton (Toronto, Ont.)
Dale Hall (Niagara Falls, Ont.)
Nathan Sayers (Toronto, Ont.)
Marnus Coetsee (Stoufville, Ont.)
Dylon Hart (Mississauga, Ont.)
Becky Murray (Sunderland, Ont.)

By Dale Hall

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Article can also be found on the Rugby Ontario website.

 

Upright Rugby has the ‘Magic Formula’

The future of rugby is in the youth’s hands.

Tyler Leggatt, the owner of Upright Rugby Canada, is making sure those hands can catch and pass well.

Leggatt started Upright Rugby Canada as a summer camp for kids. After receiving help from several national team players, and putting in a lot of hard work, Leggatt has created a Upright Rogueswell-known rugby program.

Upright Rugby Canada runs summer camps for children 12 to 16 years of age, and they run sessions for clubs and schools. Upright Rugby Canada started an academy program four years ago, which has seen high performance athletes such as Djustice Sears-Duru, Kainoa Lloyd and Danielle Spice.

The academy program is the pride of Upright Rugby Canada, according to Leggatt.

“It has helped a number of our players work toward their goal of becoming the best rugby player they can be, says Leggatt.

“The summer camps haven’t quite found their niche.”

However, Brantford Harlequins and Oakville Crusaders have partnered with Upright Rugby Canada for 2014, and Leggatt is hoping to partner with more clubs throughout the year.

This year marked the first year for the Upright Rugby Rogues, which is a specialized sevens program for aspiring high performance sevens athletes. The Rogues are just coming off a successful Las Vegas Sevens tournament. The first team won the plate final against the Toronto Rugby Union team, and the second team had a tough loss in their shield final.

Leggatt is happy knowing that he was able to help 20 boys from Ontario get a chance to play at the biggest sevens tournament in NoUpright Rugby Canadarth America.

It is amazing to see that, what started as a summer camp has grown into something so large and successful. Upright Rugby Canada employs three people on a semi-permanent basis, as well as seeing support from current and former junior national players.

“I am extremely grateful to have players like Andrew Ferguson, Dan Mathie and Tyler Ardron come back to help when they can,” says Leggatt.

Upright Rugby Canada is a prime example of a small rugby organization making a big impact in the rugby community.

By Dale Hall 

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Canada’s USA Sevens Pool Stage

With the USA Sevens tournament starting in a matter of hours, The Travelling Rugger is breaking down Canada’s pool stage.

JRL2013_025

Photo by José Lagman

Canada’s first match is against Kenya. In 22 matches against Kenya, Canada has come out on top 13 times. The last time Kenya and Canada faced off, Kenya came out on top 24-12.

Canada’s second pool match is against South Africa. Canada has only beaten South Africa five times in 34 matches, and South Africa is coming off a cup win at their home tournament, in December.

Finally, Canada will take on Wales. Wales is sitting in ninth place on the series standings. This will be Canada’s first match against Wales at the USA Sevens. Winning over 70 per cent of their matches against Canada, Wales are heavy favourites.

Canada is up against three top 10 countries, and Canada is missing Nathan Hirayama, Sean Duke and Ciaran Hearn. It is safe to say, Canada will be fighting an uphill battle. The good thing for Canada is the fact that the tournament is being held in the United States. There are many Canadians down in Las Vegas, Nev. cheering on the Canadian side, which could give them the feeling of having a home-field advantage.

For continual updates on Canada’s progress, during the tournament, please follow The Travelling Rugger on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrvlngRugger

By Dale Hall

IRB Approves Trial on ‘Rugby Goggles’

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has approved a global trial on “rugby goggles.”

Players around the world with vision issues have always had a bit of a disadvantage when it came to rugby. Many players wore contacts on the field, but contacts would often fall out. The cost of replacing contacts would often turn into a costly and tedious chore as well.

“Not everyone can wear contact lenses, particularly children,” says Steve Griffiths, head of technical services for the IRB.

These innovative goggles are now available for purchase, but you must have an optometrist’s prescription. These goggles are safe for the player, teammates and opponents on the pitch. The features advertised by the manufacturer, Raleri, “high-speed impact resistance, anti-fogging, anti-abrasion surfaces, UV protection and a specially designed strap with no clip, or sharp edges.”

The goggles can be purchased at http://www.raleri.com/

By Dale Hall

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From London’s Fog to Fiji’s Sunset

From living in the cool climate of England to watching the Fijian sunset, that is a scenery change that anyone would enjoy.

Ben Ryan - England

Submitted Photo

For former England sevens coach Ben Ryan, 42, that was a change he is proud of making. Ryan is the longest serving sevens coach, in England’s history, and he is the coach that took England to their highest Sevens Rugby World Cup (RWC) finish in 20 years. After having such a fruitful career in England, Ryan is now coaching the Fijian national sevens team.

After having a successful 2013 with England, Ryan was still feeling frustrated off the field.

“I was falling out of love, a bit, with the game at the end of last season,” says Ryan.

“I remember thinking during the RWC that perhaps it was time to do something else.”

Ryan and his family are now settled in Fiji, and he is in full control of the Fijian squad. Ryan is quite grateful for everything the people of Fiji have done to make his family’s transition easier.

“It’s been a big lifestyle change, and Fiji and London are incredibly different places,” says Ryan.

The decision to move was not solely Ryan’s. Ryan had to ask his wife, Natalie, as well. Ryan says he took Natalie to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Richmond, U.K., and after having a lengthy conversation they came to an agreement. After they agreed to make the move, they ordered a bottle of red wine and toasted to the decision.

“It was a little surreal sitting in a nice restaurant in an affluent area of London,” says Ryan.

“Knowing that the scenery was about to change pretty drastically.”

Ryan now finds himself on the fourth stop on the HSBC World Series tour, and his team is sitting in third place. The Fijian squad is quite inexperienced, compared to other top squads. However, this inexperience does not bother Ryan.

“The talent is there to be the best in the world,” says Ryan.

Ryan is confident that with time, and the continuation of the player’s hard work, the Fijian squad will be the best in the world.

One speed bump in this road to dominance is the recent actions by the International Rugby Board (IRB). The IRB recently froze funding to the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU). In light of the recent events, Ryan has willingly waived his salary until the situation is dealt with.

“I owe a lot, to a lot of people that have helped shape my career,” says Ryan.

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

“Rugby has had a huge impact on my life, and it didn’t take long to decide to do what I did.”

Ryan was upset that his decision to waive his salary got out publicly, and that is a testament to his character. Not many people will completely up-root their lives and move halfway around the world, while also telling their employer to waive their personal salaries.

Ryan’s determination, to build a successful program, will undoubtedly rub off on his players. No matter what the outcome of this year’s HSBC World Series, the Fijian sevens squad will be one to watch.

 By Dale Hall

The Travelling Rugger is now on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrvlngRugger

A Stylish Company in a Barbaric Sport

Rugby players are known for their short shorts and tight jerseys on the field, but one entrepreneur is making them look stylish off the field.

Ruckwear

Submitted Photo

Melanie Beldock, 34, of Petawawa, Ont. is making waves in the rugby fashion market. Beldock is the owner of Ruckwear. Ruckwear is a rugby clothing company geared toward rugby leisure wear. Based out of Oakville, Ont., Ruckwear was established March 2011.

“There was no brand of clothing that rugby players could wear off the field,” says Beldock.

Beldock spent some time away from rugby, after suffering a concussion while playing for York University. After being persuaded to come out to a friend’s matches, Beldock says she fell back in love with rugby and the rugby community.

Beldock realized that there are no rugby clothing brands, other than large international brands, in the Canadian market. She also noticed how proud rugby players are of their sport.

“I wanted to create something that could really help us show that pride, even once we’re off the field,” says Beldock.

One of Ruckwear’s strengths is their clothing designs that are geared towards women. There are not many companies that offer rugby clothing geared towards women, and none of them are based out of Canada.

“You can show your pride of being a rugby player, without having to look like you’re wearing your boyfriend’s T-shirt or sweater,” says Beldock.

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Submitted Photo

Ruckwear does offer clothes for men as well. Beldock says Ruckwear “makes you look good.”

All entrepreneurs have worries when starting a business. Beldock’s biggest worry was, if there was a big enough market. Ruckwear is coming up on its third year in operation, and the company is growing.

Starting this year, Ruckwear will be working alongside Upright Rugby Canada to run high school tournaments and clinics. It is safe to say, that there is a big enough market for Ruckwear.

In the midst of an unstable national economy, it is nice to see a rugby-specific company doing well.

By Dale Hall

 If you are interested in learning more about Ruckwear’s products please contact Melanie Beldock at: (416) 388-5113 or by email at: info@ruckwear.com

 Links to Ruckwear’s other contact information can be found at:
https://www.facebook.com/TheTravellingRugger

Yet Another Change to Scrum Laws

A recent change in scrum engagement laws is set to restore equity at the set-piece.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has implemented a new revision that will allow referees to use non-verbal signals to indicate to the scrum-half that the ball can now be played into the scrum.

Over the last few years we have seen many changes in the scrum engagement and subsequent laws regarding the scrum. The main goal of a referee is to manage a safe, equitable and fun rugby match. From the all-out brutality of a heated and competitive Test match to a junior level game at the local clubhouse, managing player safety is the most important job of a referee. It is because of this focus on safety that we have seen such drastic changes in the scrum engagement laws.

The first of many recent amendments to the scrum engagement laws has been the change of the engagement sequence. In order to maintain player safety in recent years, the sequence has been changed from the out dated “crouch, touch, pause, engage” to a more simplified “crouch, bind, set.” This change of sequence was first trialled to eliminate the confusion of just how long the “pause” sequence should be. This elongated pause often led to early scrum engagement, numerous scrum resets and unfortunate injuries. Not only was this a concern for player welfare, but constant scrum resets threatened the spectacle of the sport.

The new “crouch, bind, set” sequence has aimed to protect player welfare by reducing impact upon engagement by up to 25 percent. After I watched the Autumn Internationals as well as the British and Irish Lions tour of 2013, it is clear, to me, that the engagement sequence has been quite successful as the scrums themselves seemed much more stable and allowed for greater attacking flow for the game.

One thing to note is the current difficulty with sustaining engagement in the scrum. As part of the current scrum trial, the referee has told the scrum-half that the scrum is ready for the put-in by the use of the phrase “yes nine”. This lengthy pause, as referees shuffle around the scrum to ensure correct binding, is a major concern for the current amendments. Once the scrum is engaged, the attacking team require stability to allow for their hooker to strike for the ball. Once the defending scrum is set, a verbal signal from the referee informs them that the ball is being fed in to the scrum. This gives the defending team an advantage, as they can now bore low under the opposing pack and gain dominance in the scrum. Many coaches and players see this as a great injury risk to front row players as props and hookers face even greater upper body strain on the push, or bore.

This new implementation will take effect immediately and will be used in the Northern Hemisphere matches of the Heineken Cup, Amlin Challenge Cup, French Top-14 and the Rabo-Direct Pro12 in Europe going forward.

By Keith Thompson

The 2014 CRC Schedule has been Released

The 2014 Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) schedule has been released.

After having a perfect season (5-0), in 2013, the Ontario Blues are looking to have another dominating year. The 2014 season will add one more match to each team`s schedule, ensuring every team will play one another twice.

Photo by José Lagman

Photo by José Lagman

This lengthened season will be good for all of the top-level athletes playing at the representative level. The Blues`s season will begin on Aug. 16, and end on Sept. 27.

Their season will begin against the Atlantic Rock. The Blues will then head to the west coast to take on the Prairie Wolf Pack, and then face the British Columbia Bears. The Blues will then enjoy back-to-back home games before heading to Newfoundland, to finish their season against the Rock.

The venues have not been decided as of yet. The Ontario Rugby Union (ORU) will soon be opening up bidding for the rights to host a Blues match.

Any club interested in bidding to host a match can ask their executive board to place a bid with the ORU.

By Dale Hall

 To stay up-to-date with any Rugby Ontario new,s please “Like” The Travelling Rugger on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheTravellingRugger   or go on to the Rugby Ontario website – http://www.rugbyontario.com/

The IRB Freezes Fiji’s Funding

As rugby nations throughout the world look forward to the 2016 Summer Games, one rugby union finds themselves on the back foot with time ticking down on Olympic preparations.

Fiji Rugby Logo

Submitted Photo

It was announced earlier this week that the International Rugby Board (IRB) has suspended all funding to the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) after failures to comply with IRB financial standards. The suspension came after an IRB review of the Union in April 2013. The review and subsequent report highlighted many financial concerns. The report offered recommendations to assist the FRU with debt repayment, and internal financial infrastructure to repay debt accumulated by the previous union board over the last few years.

In 2013, IRB direct funding to the FRU totalled C$ 1.9 million. According to internal reports, and a recent press release from the FRU, the IRB funding does not finance the operating costs of the FRU. However, it is used to fund IRB interest programs in Fiji. These programs include salaries of: IRB appointed staff, IRB high performance development staff, travel expenses for IRB technical personnel and special IRB approved projects in Fiji. The funding is controlled by the IRB, and is not available for the FRU to use for any operational purposes.

The FRU board and management rely heavily on sponsorship and government assistance to fund the sport, of rugby, in Fiji.

When the current FRU board was elected in April 2013, the large deficit created by previous boards was the first urgent matter to deal with. Working with the IRB, the two parties put in place a budget deficit reduction plan with the goal of being debt free by May 2014. According to FRU officials, new policies and procedures are already put in place to ensure deficit reduction continues. Acting FRU chief executive officer, Berlin Kafoa, claims that the IRB has not given the board enough time to complete the reform program. Kafoa raised concerns that the IRB was only looking after its own interests, and Kafoa highlighted the importance of working together in a partnership to ensure future success of rugby in Fiji.

“I think one of the things that we are concerned about is the IRB dictating to us what we should do in our own country for our own rugby.” says Kafoa.

The IRB has said, that the recent suspension of funding to the FRU will not affect the nation’s inclusion in the current HSBC Sevens World Series. The FRU is forging ahead with plans to continue to compete in the upcoming international competitions in Las Vegas and Wellington. How long the Union can sustain a strong level of competition, without key IRB funding is yet to be determined. According to recent reports, newly appointed Fiji sevens coach and former England sevens coach Ben Ryan has agreed to work without payment until extra funding is available this year.

“Ben has made some sacrifices given Fiji Rugby Union’s financial woes, and he volunteered for the first couple of months while we were sorting things out with the financial situation,” says Kafoa.

“That definitely said a lot about Ben as a person, because the package that we offered is nowhere near what he would have earned in England, so I can correctly say he was very keen, and we are very appreciative.”

By Keith Thompson