Canada’s Hannah Darling drives past a New Zealand defender. (Black Press file photo)

British Columbians hooked on rugby

The province is rushing towards the sport with deep historical roots

According to Rugby BC, British Columbians continue to account for a high share of players representing Canada’s top rugby players. Sixty-eight per cent of players for the senior national men’s Sevens team come from British Columbia, while 49 per cent of the players on the Fifteens team hails from the province. Almost 62 per cent of the 2017/18 National Men’s U20 Team calls British Columbia home.

RELATED: Canada finishes fifth at world rugby stop in Langford

One of the oldest organized sports in Canada, rugby is currently experiencing a boom phase, both in participation and attendance for major events. Canada is home to almost 30,000 registered players, and some 70,000 fans bought tickets for the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Vancouver. One measure of this growing popularity is actually the public’s interest in a dispute over Rugby Canada’s decision to re-organize its structure.

RELATED: Victoria-area sevens players boycott Rugby Canada sessions, upset at new reorganization

The sport is also seeping into public, if not political conscience, as both New Democratic Premier John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Andrew Weaver are former players and fans of the sport. In fact, both visited an international rugby match held on the West Shore in the spring of 2017 following the inconclusive provincial election.

While both insisted that they were just watching a rugby game, observers interpreted their shared passion for the sport, as another sign of their pending political alliance, with the Greens playing the role of kingmakers.

The Grey Cup also has a connection to the sport. Rugby served as a template for the sport that eventually evolved into Canadian football, whose rules, while thoroughly Americanized, have retained rugby elements. Contemporary teams now competing for the Grey Cup also had their historical roots as rugby clubs.


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