Aaron Guillen/Special to the News
Only a year ago the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre opened its doors in Langford.
The 1,900 square-metre centre that showcases a world-renowned gym with hydrotherapy pools, bedroom studio units, and dining lounges has quickly become a second home for Canada’s rugby players.
“It’s brought all our different programs together,” says Gareth Rees, director of commercial and programs relations for Rugby Canada.
“From men’s to women’s, and 7s to 15s. Now, we all identify as Team Canada. These rugby athletes travel around the world to compete for Canada. [When] they come back, these young people can share a meal together in a social space in a building I never had.”
Rees is a rugby veteran, born in Duncan. He played in the first four Rugby World Cup tournaments, starting in 1987. The veteran went on to be inducted as the first Canadian in the World Rugby Hall of Fame. Additionally, he’s the first and only rugby player in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
“The power of this building has been pretty exceptional,” says Rees.
But the biggest challenge for Team Canada has been their location, particularly how isolated they are from the best in the world.
“We aren’t in Europe, where rugby is a big deal. Rugby to them is like ice hockey to most Canadians,” says Rees.
Canada came in the last qualifying position of 20 teams for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, slated in Japan next month. Canada will be in Pool B and open the World Cup on September 26 in Fukuoka.
Looking ahead, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics will see the debut of the Canadian men’s team. Meanwhile, the women will be looking to top their bronze medal from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.
“As Olympic athletes, we typically train around seven hours a day, five to six days per week, year-round,” says Olympic bronze medalist Sara Kaljuvee.
Recently, Kaljuvee captured the gold medal with Team Canada’s women at the 2019 Pan American games last month in Lima, Peru. Now, she’s determined to show Canada’s talent on the world stage.
“The Al Charron Training Centre has … created an unmatched, high-performance training environment. The centre is the perfect place for us to effectively dedicate our time and energy in our quest for gold at Tokyo 2020.”
Team Canada will face-off against a BC All-Stars team in Langford in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The match takes place at the newly-renovated Westhills Stadium on Aug. 30 at 6:30 p.m.