What's on the Horizon for 2019 - What Will Catch Your Interest in the Year Ahead?
So 2018 is done and dusted, time to look ahead. What excites you about the upcoming year? These are some of the rugby happenings in 2019 that we'll be following with interest.
2019 Rugby World Cup
OK Canada got the last invitation to the big dance but they got the invitation. It kicks off in September and Canada's first match will be against Italy on September 26th. Canada will look to get at least one win against Namibia and if they can knock off Italy in the first match then this could get interesting.
Where is this going in 2019? Will there be a team entered in the BC Premier league, will they try to create an identity for the team besides just the "centralized program". Already word that they're struggling to meet payroll for the centralized players at the end of 2018 so hoping this gets sorted and moves ahead with some momentum.
Women's 7s Program
The most complete program at the national level, they're building depth even at the high school level with a centralized program out of Belmost HS. Hoping there's some meaningful competition for the levels below the national team, some initiative to build domestic 7s tournaments for the benefit of those players trying to reach the national level would be nice. That would involve co-operation between the national program and tournament organizers.
Men's 7s Program
Head coach Damian McGrath is slowly building some depth to his program but it isn't easy with next to no budget. Would be nice if they could get an infusion of money from OTP this year, think the timing is right. The Maple Leaf program will be key and the U18 program is starting to build results.
Men's U20 Program
Lots of interest here with a new group guiding the U20 program and providing fundraising assistance, some heavy hitters there with Pat Parfrey, Mike Holmes, David Robertson and others. If Canada can get their U20 program competitive at the world level the future for the senior men would look a lot brighter. Canada would host the USA this year in the North American qualifier.
Women's XVs program
It didn't look good when Francois Ratier left and Sandro Fiorino took over, their first tour to England was a disaster but the latest November tour looked more reassuring. We'll see how they go in 2019, not sure of their match schedule but with the Monty Heald Fund at Canadian Rugby Foundation helping, the pay to play model has been put to rest and they can focus on rugby.
Men's XVs program
It has been struggling the last few years but there seems a bit of a resurgence in confidence with the World Cup qualifying. The ARC will start up in February and we'll see how they do against some stiffer competion like USA, Argentina and Uruguay. Canada start off in South America on February 2nd (Uruguay) and February 9th (Brazil) before returning to Lanford to host Chile (22nd) and Argentina (March 1st). They finish off in Seattle against USA (8th).
Toronto Arrows are in this year so more Canadians playing. Seattle won last year with a Canadian player/coach (Phil Mack) and more Canadians on the roster than any other team. The season starts January 26th and runs until June 2nd with the playoffs beginning the following week.
Canada 7s Langford and Vancouver
The big events for Canada 7s fans, in Vancouver on March 9-10 for the men and May 11-12 in Langford for the women. The women will look to get automatic Olympic qualification by getting a top 4 finish in the series, the men will likely finish middle of the pack in the series and avoid a relegation scenario.
Rugby Canada HQ
Will Rugby Canada HQ continue to reduce staff and tighten up their operations? Perhaps closing down the Richmond Hill office and consolidating everything to Langford? There was a glut of spending and expansion under Graham Brown and now new CEO Allen Vansen has to live with the consequences and try to bring spending under control. We'll see how it goes in 2019.
With MLR now running parallel to the spring BC Premier season there's been a number of top BC Premier players signed to MLR contracts. Will coach Kingsley Jones treat the BC Premier with more respect now that he's got RWC qualification under his belt and has had a chance to survey the rugby landscape. MLR will no doubt get the most attention but there are a lot of quality rugby players playing weekly right under his nose in the BC Premier league. It will be interesting to see his selection policy for the ARC in February with the MLR in full schedule and the offshore pros unavailable.