Rugby Canada Updates - August 2018

August 09 2018


Rugby Canada rebranding Feb 2018
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Rugby Canada Announce Merging of XVs and 7s in Centralized Player Pool: Confirm XVs is Priority


As a I read the conflicting views on Rugby Canada's announcement about merging the XVs and 7s talent pool in a centralized training program I had several images and memories come to mind. One was Connor Braid dropping an up and under kick at BC Place in the first qualifier against Uruguay. The other was Nate Hirayama playing #10 against USA a few years ago getting a clearance kick blocked. How many times in 7s does a player have to field an up and under while under pressure, how many times in 7s does the flyhalf have to time his clearance kick to perfection while under pressure. If you said zero, you would be right. The idea of using 7s players in skilled positions to solve Canada's XVs woes just doesn't make sense. They're different games, different scenarios, different skillsets are honed.

I also pondered Rugby Canada's wording, "Rugby Canada, who is responsible for rugby in Canada from grass roots to high performance" in framing the doomsday scenario about losing World Rugby funding. Let's be clear, this funding is essential for Rugby Canada the organization, not Canadian Rugby. If Rugby Canada the corporation went bankrupt tomorrow, mini-rugby would still run on the weekend, as would club rugby and everything that ran under the provincial rugby unions. This is about securing funding for Rugby Canada the corporation and being able to fulfil their financial obligations and payroll. In that context it makes sense for them to focus all their resources on securing their major funding source, World Rugby money from the men's XVs program.

The media strategy on the announcement seemed to be to post the minimum on their website and then feed Neil Davidson from Canadian Press information ahead of time to write a neutral article sympathetic to Rugby Canada without asking the hard questions. A strategy they've used before. We'll see if independent journalists will pickup the story, or will they even care which would be more disturbing.

Damian McGrath who is vacationing in the UK with family and celebrating his 60th birthday seemed unaware of the announcement until notified. His program is the most in jeapordy with this announcement. How much say will he have in selecting and training his squad. With an Olympic qualifying year ahead this is not good news for the 7s program despite the assurances in the Rugby Canada media release. Rugby Canada have made it clear, "our Men's Fifteens program is the priority program".

At first glance it seems a step backwards to several years ago when we shared 7s and XVs players between programs, there's a feeling of panic to the decision. How will Sports Canada and OTP react as they were the initiators of the separation when they only carded 7s players.

Talking to a member of the board, they feel everything is on course, all the t's crossed and i's dotted. I get the feeling the board is a little out of touch with reality.

It may not all be bad, we'll have to see how it plays out come September. Luke Bradley is one player who may benefit, we don't think the skill players in the backs will be the saviour but the grunt players like a Luke Bradley or Isaac Kaay could benefit. Luke hasn't been playing much 7s or XVs, Isaac Kaay has a lot of XVs potential.

Canada has everything it needs to get by Hong Kong and Germany in the repechage, don't kill the 7s program with a heavy handed approach. We'll see how it plays out come September and into the November repechage and the Olympic 7s qualifying.

We've also included some tweets from Phil Mackenzie, Chauncey O'Toole and Allen Vansen below so you can see the conversation going on.

from Rugby Canada

Langford, BC (August 8, 2018) – Rugby Canada announced today that the Men’s Centralized programs will be evolving to provide a larger pool of centralized players in order to create greater depth and talent for Canada’s National Senior Men’s Fifteens and Sevens programs.

Today’s announcement builds on Rugby Canada’s strategic plan to create the best conditions possible for current and aspiring high performance Canadian rugby players to develop, and be competitive at the International level. The plan also addresses the importance of prioritizing the Men’s Fifteens program in order to secure critical core funding to Rugby Canada, who is responsible for rugby in Canada from grass roots to high performance.

"Rugby Canada's board of directors has clearly stated that our Men's Fifteens program is the priority program for the union. In the environment in which we live, key core funding for our entire union is driven by our Men's Fifteens performance,” stated Tim Powers, Chair of Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors. “Central contracting of our male players is necessary and natural.”

To maximize the development of Canada’s men’s national team players, starting in September, Rugby Canada will centralize a group of forty to fifty men’s players annually who are under central Rugby Canada contracts. The Daily Training Environment (DTE) for the Men’s Centralized Program, based out of the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre in Langford BC, will see coaches, staff and players training together with increased collaboration where players will be available for selection to Canada’s National Senior Men’s Fifteens and Sevens teams.

In keeping with the approach taken by the majority of other leading National rugby unions, Canada’s Men’s Sevens program will maintain core team status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and continue to pursue Olympic Games qualification, with the program also serving as a key development program for the National Men’s Fifteens program.

“This is a critically important evolution that is necessary to build depth in our national talent pool, and meet our objectives as a leading Rugby Nation,” noted Allen Vansen, CEO. “Qualification for the 2019 Men’s Rugby World Cup is of paramount importance for all of Rugby Canada’s operations & Canadian Rugby in general.”

from Neil Davidson Canadian Press

TORONTO — Rugby Canada is reorganizing its resources, opting for one centralized pool of men's players rather than having separate 15s and sevens training squads.

Come September, Rugby Canada will centralize a group of 40 to 50 men under contract "to maximize the development of Canada's men's national team players."

Canada is currently ranked 22nd in the World Rugby 15s rankings. The Canadian men's sevens squad, meanwhile, finished ninth on the 2017-18 HSBC World Sevens Series.

The two teams essentially have trained apart in Langford, B.C., with separate coaches — with some 17 carded athletes in the sevens squad and up to 30 non-carded players in the 15s — although there has been some movement between the two. Canada's top 15s talent plays professionally overseas.

In essence, the reorganization is an admission that Canada does not have the depth to run the two programs separately. Also that Rugby Canada has to focus more on the 15s program to maintain badly needed World Rugby funding.

"It is incredibly important that we are aligned and we are prioritized in our approach around our men's 15s program," Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in an interview.

Added Vansen: "We have not done a good enough job as a sport in terms of developing players to compete at the international level ... We see this coming together under one contact, one centralized program, as being hugely beneficial to both sevens and 15s, not just one or the other."

The centralized pool of players will train at the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre in Langford, "with increased collaboration where players will be available for selection to Canada's national senior men's fifteens and sevens teams," according to Rugby Canada.

While athletes will sign one common contract and Rugby Canada will spread out its resources among the group, there will be a scale of pay in the group with young prospects getting less.

While the two versions of the game come with starkly different demands from fitness to strategy, Rugby Canada says the one-size-fits-all approach is needed and will provide for both teams.

Own The Podium has already cut the men's sevens program funding once in the wake of failing to qualifying for the Rio Olympics, although Rugby Canada has got some of that money back.

Rugby Canada said it will continue to pursue Olympic men's sevens qualification, with the sevens program "also serving as a key development program" for the 15s team.

But the focus is clearly back on the 15s game.

"Rugby Canada's board of directors has clearly stated that our men's fifteens program is the priority program for the union," Tim Powers, chair of Rugby Canada's board of directors, said in a statement. "In the environment in which we live, key core funding for our entire union is driven by our men's fifteens performance."

The Canadian men 15s side, which has never failed to qualify for the World Cup, is headed to a last-chance repechage tournament in November in its third and final attempt to crack the field for the 2019 World Cup.

Canada lost earlier qualifying series to the U.S. and Uruguay.

"It's critically important for Rugby Canada and for Canadian rugby that we continue to have a men's 15s team that qualifies for the Rugby World Cup," said Vansen.

Failure to make the sport's showcase tournament means less money from the world governing body. According to Rugby Canada's 2016 annual report, World Rugby provided $2.1 million of its $15.1 million revenue in 2016 (an Olympic year) — its second largest contributor after Sport Canada's $2.97 million.

In 2015, World Rugby was the biggest contributor at $3.7 million, ahead of Sport Canada, in Rugby Canada's $16.2 million worth of revenue.

In January, Powers said Rugby Canada's current budget is in the range of $17 million to $20 million with some 13 to 15 per cent coming from World Rugby.

Canada has already missed out on an immediate injection of $448,000 in World Cup preparation money from World Rugby. It's money that will be lost if Canada fails to qualify. And the World Rugby cheque will be cut further as the world governing body reviews other funding formula.

In April, Rugby Canada raised registration fees in a bid to meet the reduction in men's national team funding.

It appears the Canadian women's program, where only its sevens players are carded athletes, will remain the same.

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