Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) 2016

December 22 2015

Rugby Canada Reveals CRC Schedule Wrapped in Sausage Sponsorship Announcement

posted Dec 22 2015
[ed. comments below]

Rugby Canada's self-declared pathway to the national team, the CRC, is again ready for another season's roll out. Each region will play four games in June and July.

There's some interesting behind the scenes action going on. First the Rugby Canada press release is a sponsorship ad for Johnsonville's Sausages which includes the schedule as almost an afterthought. They're desperate for league sponsors and it shows a bit in the press release.

They also emphasize the fact that World Rugby are "supporting" the league. We had mentioned in an earlier article, when we published the BC preliminary schedule, that likely World Rugby weren't funding the travel expenses anymore, so whether "supporting" means "funding" is a question to be asked. It would explain why the CRC is still around as left to its own devices without World Rugby financing it likely would have been dead and buried by now.

It's an insight into how World Rugby are propping up aspects of Canadian rugby they deem as important, such as the CRC and Kieran Crowley's tenure as men's XVs coach. The unfortunate side effect is it hinders the natural evolution of pathways based on working systems in the domestic rugby ecosystem. The heavy handed application of offshore money propping up artificial local systems is rarely a formula for success, there are plenty of examples outside of the sports world to learn from.

Finally, perhaps an insight into the politics of Canadian rugby. When we published the BC Bears preliminary schedule it showed the Bears had 3 CRC home games and travelled once to Alberta. We lauded new BCRU CEO, Annabel Kehoe, as an accomplished negotiator to achieve such results. The good doctor from Newfoundland may have taken note and now the Rock have 3 CRC home games and BC have 3 away games, making the arduous journey to St. John's and Toronto with 2 days rest between games. Annabel Kehoe meet Dr. Pat Parfrey, tap out in the first round with the champion from the east retaining the crown.

It highlights BC's dismal record in the CRC, not only on the field but in negotiations and recruiting. Evan Olmstead playing for the Wolf Pack instead of BC may be a good example. The CRC is played outside of BC's rugby season and has been halfheartedly supported by fans and players alike. Jeff Sauve, the BCRU CEO at the time, pulled BC out of the competition in 2012.

We'll see how it flies this year, the 7s players won't be involved, not only because they have their repechage tournament in June but also Rugby Canada announced they're separating the 7s and XVs athletes with less crossover.

The USA don't have a regional national championship, they're more focused on club level solutions. The last couple of years have seen the growth of the PRP, Pacific Rugby Premiership, on the west coast also Seattle making the BC Premiership. Now they're adding a layer with a Pro Rugby league in 6 cities which is slated to start in April. Canada have lost the last 3 head to head matches with the USA plus have lost the last 2 ARC matchups involving domestic players.

Yet Rugby Canada keeps flogging the CRC as the solution.

CRC Schedule 2016

June 4 — Ontario Blues vs. Atlantic Rock (Toronto)
July 2 — Prairie Wolf Pack vs. BC Bears (Calgary)
July 2 — Atlantic Rock vs. Ontario Blues (St. John's)
July 9 — BC Bears vs. Prairie Wolf Pack (Victoria)
July 21 — Ontario Blues vs. Prairie Wolf Pack (Toronto)
July 21 — Atlantic Rock vs. BC Bears (St. John’s)
July 24 — Ontario Blues vs. BC Bears (Toronto)
July 24 — Atlantic Rock vs. Prairie Wolf Pack (St. John’s)

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