French Barbarians vs Canada: June 28 2008

July 03 2008

Nanyak Dala - Canada v French Barbarians
© Hugh Jervis

Rugby Canada Challenge Weekend Proves Successful: Wrap-up Media Release

by David Davies
posted July 3 2008

Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada July 2, 2008: A combination of perfect weather, enthusiastic crowds and some top notch rugby made for an extremely successful Rugby Canada Challenge held in Esquimalt’s Bullen Park over the weekend. The event attracted over 3,400 people, setting a new record for the Island’s largest rugby crowd. Organizers hope it’s an indication of enough interest to bring future matches to Victoria, as well as heighten interest in Victoria’s home grown teams. There is already talk of holding a Team Canada qualifier for 2011 World Cup in Bullen Park next year.

“The record-setting crowd is certainly an indication of the potential rugby has in Victoria. The enthusiasm was high throughout the day and the players were aware the crowd was really into it,” says Tom Woods, Rugby Canada Challenge organizer. “We owe a huge thank you to the over 150 volunteers and our sponsors who were key in the success of this event. The whole Capital Region came together to support this international event.”

The weekend kicked off with two Friday afternoon games. The Canadian Classics were victorious over the U.S. Eagles Classics with a final score 5-0. A high school all-star game followed with Fraser Valley victorious over the Island 29-15.

On the Saturday the day kicked off with a Rugby Canada Super League Under 20 fixture where Fraser Valley defeated the Island Rising Tide 22-18. This was followed by a Classics match and the Canadian Classics side defeated the U.S. Eagles Classics 22-7. In the feature game the French Barbarians defeated Canada 17-7.

Sponsors of the Rugby Canada Challenge include Lighthouse Brewery, City of Victoria, The Township of Esquimalt, West Shore Parks and Recreation, The Tudor House Hotel, The Esquimalt Fire Department and Helijet International.

Media Contact
David Davies

3,400 Official Attendance, Canada Lose 17-7, Classics Win 24-7

[ed. comments below, video highlights tomorrow]
posted June 28 2008

What a great day of rugby, about 3,400 organizers say which is amazing, can we do this every year in Victoria? The most entertaining contest perhaps was the Classics game, certainly more for Canadian rugby fans to cheer about! 24-7 for the Canada Classics over the USA and the highlight had to be Canada’s first try by Gareth Rees as he did his best impression of a prop breaching the line and did what not many Canadian players did today and ran straight ahead, through and over people. We caught that moment on video and will post it tomorrow. Also scoring for Canada were Winston Stanley and Mark Cardinal, unfortunately we don’t have the complete list of scorers in the game.

In the undercard the Fraser Valley team came back from an early deficit to defeat the Rising Tide 22-18. The Tide owned the first half but the valley showed spirit and battled back to take the lead and win the game in the second half.

In the main event the Barbarians proved to be too much for Canada and prevailed 17-7 with Bryn Keys scoring for Canada at the final whistle. A little disappointing perhaps that in a Barbarian style game Canada were only able to score at the final whistle. There didn’t seem much threat from the Canada team and they’ll certainly have to rethink their attacking options and strategy. Bryn Keys is one of the few players that seem willing to attack the opposition line and take on opponents with ball in hand so it’s not surprising to see him score.

Overall a great day of rugby, kudos to the organizers, the fans, the classics, and maybe by this time next year we’ll have a national team with a little bit more octane in the tank.

Crowley names team to face French Barbarians

Rugby Canada press release
posted June 27 2008

Canada has named its team to face the French Barbarians at Bullen Park in Esquimalt, BC, a suburb of Victoria.

With a young backline and some veterans in the forwards unit it will be an interesting mix that lines up against a talented French Barbarians squad.

It is also a team announcement that provides the excitement of some untested talent, and also the re-emergence of players that are looking to re-invigorate their careers.

Steve Piatek and Ben Grant get their first full fifteen aside starts, while the likes of ten year veteran Jon Thiel wears the Canadian colours again, and after a four year gap, Tony La Carte gets an opportunity to see if he can break back into the Canadian mix.

"This is a real opportunity for some of the young guys to stick their hands up and make themselves known to us," said Crowley of the selection. "Obviously with three hard games behind us we are managing some of the players carefully and this offers up a chance for us to see some new faces against some top opposition, which is exciting for me as a coach and them as a player."

Size will not be an issue in the front row as Hubert Buydens, and Jon Thiel go to the loosehead and tighthead spots respectively, with team Captain Pat Riordan taking the hooker spot.

In the second row Stu Ault and Tyler Hotson provide some height and heft in the engine room, while in the back row veteran campaigner Mike Webb is on the side of the scrum with Adam Kleeberger and Aaron Carpenter getting the No. 8 jersey once again.

Pat Fleck will be scrum-half, working in concert with Ander Monro, who has shown good form in three starts during the Barclays Churchill Cup. A young centre pairing of Ben Grant and Bryn Keys, will hopefully provide some of the sevens flair the duo have been known for, with Tony La Carte and James Pritchard giving an injection of pace on the wings.

The fullback is Steve Piatek, the Brantford Harlequins player who had a major impact with his place kicking in the opening round of the North America Four, kicking his newly minted West team to victory with five penalties, including four in the second half.

Lots of veteran knowledge will be available off the bench, with Mike Pletch providing standard dual coverage of the hooker and prop spots, along with Doug Wooldridge, the Lindsay, ON native that will be pulling lots of support from nearby Cowichan where he winters with the Piggies. Ben Johnson is back to normal service and can provide flanker and front row cover as needed, with Luke Cudmore getting a rest from the starters role in the second row he had retained the previous two weeks. Flanker Andrew Wilson will provide great impact off the bench, as will his back row partner Nanyak Dala, who tore through the US for two second half tries last weekend in a fantastic starting performance. Scrum half coverage comes by way of James Buchanan.

The French Barbarians have yet to officially announce their team, but acknowledge that former All Black Anton Oliver is no longer in the squad, along with Augustin Pichot, the Pumas half-back, who was also originally selected for this tour. Former All Black prop Kees Meeuws is still with the team and will be a likely starter along with a number of French stars from the Top 14 domestic competition.

Jon Thiel recognizes a few names from his early contract in 2000 with French side Narbonne. "I remember Marc Renault, who helped me when I first got to Narbonne," and he smiles as he recalls front rower Vincent Debaty. "I hope we put on a good show for the people of Victoria," said the veteran campaigner, who comes into the game with 42 tests to his name since 1998. Thiel made an improbable comeback to the Canadian team in 2007 after a dramatic open heart surgery was needed to repair a damaged valve in 2006.

The day will be a festival of rugby with the Rising Tide taking on the Fraser Valley in a Rugby Canada Super League, U20 contest, followed by the Canadian Classics taking on the US Classics at 2 PM, and then the match against the French Barbs - a 4 PM start.

Fans can watch the game live online and for free - with broadcast links going live around 3:50 PST on the website.

For tickets go to

Starting team vs French Barbarians
15. Steven Piatek (Brantford Harlequins) 14. James Pritchard (Bedford, England) 13. Bryn Keys (Aurora Barbarians) 12. Ben Grant (U Vic Vikes) 11. Tony La Carte (Bayside Sharks) 10. Ander Monro (Colorno, Italy) 9. Pat Fleck (Vancouver Meraloma) 8. Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins) 7. Adam Kleeberger (U Vic Vikes) 6. Mike Webb (Vancouver Rowing Club) 5. Stu Ault (Barrhaven Scottish) 4. Tyler Hotson (Eastern Suburbs, Australia) 3. Jon Thiel (Bayside Sharks) 2. Pat Riordan (C) 1. Hubert Buydens (Castaway Wanderers)

16. Mike Pletch (Oakville Crusaders) 17. Doug Wooldridge (Lindsay RFC) 18. Ben Johnson (James Bay AA) 19. Luke Cudmore (London Irish) 20. Andrew Wilson (unattached) 21.Nanyak Dala (Saskatoon Wild Oats) 22. James Buchanan (Calgary Hornets)

Final French Barbarians Lineup: Mehrtens Out, Pichot Out, Oliver Out

[ed. comments below]
posted June 26 2008

The French Barbarians team have truly turned into a French team with only Kees Meeuws remaining in the lineup from the original three all blacks. Organizers have stated injuries and passport issues as the reason for the dropouts. So it appears Canada may be in with a good chance of winning this game against a mixed French side. It will be interesting to see the level of play in this game as many of the names are unknown to Canadian rugby fans.



Canada Lineup Announced for French Barbarians Match: Confirmed Mehrtens Returns to NZ

[ed. this is the press release from Rugby Canada, what's interesting is what is not mentioned. Who from the Canadian team is not coming: Kevin Tkackuk, Scott Franklin, Ed Fairhurst, Ryan Smith, Mike Pyke, David Spicer and Justin Mensah-Coker. No mention of Andrew Merhtens who was initially listed by organizers as part of the French Barbarians, we'll have to get a clarification on that. We've just confirmed that Mertens has returned to NZ, no word on who his replacement will be. Also interesting to note the Ontario-centric reporting from Rugby Canada where players are listed from their Ontario affiliation rather than BC. For example, Bryn Keys from Abbotsford, and Velox Valhallians is listed as Aurora Barbarians. We've added in square brackets their BC club affiliation.]
posted June 25 2008

Canada has just finished a grueling three week assembly for the Barclays Churchill Cup – playing three games against Scotland A, Argentina A and the USA – losing two and defeating the Americans 26-10. Now the team will play a talented all star squad from France, called the French Barbarians, that include former New Zealand All Blacks Anton Oliver and Kees Meeuws, and current Argentinean scrum-half Augustin Pichot. The match will take place this weekend in suburban Victoria, BC – Bullen Park – Esquimalt. This is the squad from which a team will be selected later in the week to face the Barbarians.
With the challenge of the French Barbarians just days away and the tail end of a four week assembly in the balance, Kieran Crowley has named his squad that will face the all-stars from France's top league in Esquimalt's Bullen Park this Saturday.

Coming off a 26-10 win over the USA, a number of the Barclays Churchill Cup squad have returned to the UK, or are on a brief break before returning to training camps, which in some cases have already assembled.

That being said, a still impressive squad remains for the challenge of the Barbarians, who tour all over the world and have chosen Canada for the first time, to enjoy the natural splendour of Whistler, BC before getting down to the business of rugby.

Much of the forwards unit stays intact, with front rowers Hubert Buydens, Mike Pletch, Pat Riordan, and Doug Wooldridge remaining along with Ben Johnson, who can be a front row or back row cover. In the second row Luke Cudmore and Tyler Hotson, along with Stu Ault will create solid coverage in the second row, while the impressive back row remains the same with Andrew Wilson, Nanyak Dala and Adam Kleeberger all staying in the mix. Mike Webb and Aaron Carpenter comprise the No. 8 package that will have selectors scratching their heads.
Veteran prop Jon Thiel gets his first selection to Coach Kieran Crowley's squad, after an impressive come-back year in 2007 that saw him figure heavily in Canada's World Cup campaign.

In the backs Pat Fleck stays on and will partner with Ander Monro, while James Pritchard, Tony La Carte and Bryn Keys all get the nod into the squad for the final week. New faces into camp include Sevens specialist and Victoria native Ben Grant and Steve Piatek who came into the final week of the Churchill Cup selection. Also making his first Canada assembly at the senior level is Calgary scrum-half James Buchanan.

Crowley has seen steady improvement in the team's performance over its four week assembly and three games, losing to Scotland A 26-10, falling in a squeaker to Argentina A 17-16, and overturning a sluggish first half effort for a four try 26-10 win over the USA.

"For sure there has been progress, but make no mistake there is still lots of areas to improve on," the plain speaking coach said. "There is a process we are developing and the longer we stay together the more improvements we will see."

That being said, the type of game they will see from a French Barbarians side that boasts the fire power of former New Zealand All Blacks Anton Oliver and Kees Meeuws and scrum-half Augustin Pichot will be a challenge.

"No doubt about it there are some class players in that side, but we have to worry about what we are doing, improvement has been seen in some areas but now we have to start being consistent in those areas such as defence'" said Crowley. Canada feasted on US turnovers, with Nanyak Dala and Ryan Smith scoring two tries each, working from spilled balls to get traffic going the other way.

Local organizers are anticipating a large crowd at Bullen Park, that will be hosting a major weekend of rugby for the first time ever, including a pair of Canadian Classics games on Friday and Saturday as well as the match against the Barbarians on Saturday.

"The caliber of the French Barbarian team is very high, featuring internationally recognized players," stated Tom Woods, Rugby Canada Challenge organizer. "These guys are the very best players in the world and are household names in rugby playing nations.

"This line-up would draw 80,000 in London, Paris, Auckland or Sydney so we have a major coup for sports fans in Victoria who are totally starved for this level of play."

Other key players announced include Kees Meeuws, Anton Oliver, David Auradou, Julien Pierre, Vincent Debaty, Abrahim Diarra, Marc Raynaud, Julien Peyrelongue, Ludovic Valbon, Jean-Francois Coux. Eric Champ will be Tour Director.
Canadian veteran Pat Riordan is enthusiastic about playing a side the caliber of the Barbarians, especially on the home turf of Victoria, where he now goes to school and plays for the University of Victoria Vikes.

"As a national team athlete, these are the guys you live to play against," says Canada hooker Pat Riordan. "They are truly the best players in the world over the past decade and this could well be the best rugby team to play on North American soil since New Zealand was here in 1989."

To buy tickets go to .

Canada side to face French Barbarians
Stu Ault (Barrhaven Scottish, [Crimson Tide]), James Buchanan (Calgary Hornets, [Velox Valhallians]), Hubert Buydens (Prairie Fire, [Castaway Wanderers]), Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins, [James Bay]), Luke Cudmore (London Irish), Nanyak Dala (Praire Fire), Pat Fleck (Vancouver Meraloma), Ben Grant (U Vic Vikes), Tyler Hotson (Eastern Suburbs, Australia, [UBCOB Ravens]), Ben Johnson (James Bay AA), Bryn Keys (Aurora Barbarians, [Abbotsford, Velox Valhallians]), Adam Kleeberger (U Vic Vikes), Tony La Carte (Bayside Sharks), Ander Monro (Colorno, Italy), Steve Piatek (Brantford Harlequins), Mike Pletch (Oakville Crusaders), James Pritchard (Bedford, Eng), Pat Riordan (UVic Vikes), Jon Theil (Bayside Sharks), Mike Webb (Vancouver Rowing Club), Andrew Wilson (Unattached), Doug Wooldridge (Lindsay RFC, [Cowichan RFC])


Coach Kieran Crowley
Forwards Coach: John Tait
Scrum Coach: Kevin Wirachowski
Technical Advisor: Morgan Williams
Program Managers: Des Lynch, Rodger Swany
Strength and Conditioning: Tyler Goodale
Physio-therapist: Chris May
Massage Therapist: Kim Mark-Goldsworthy
Press Officer: Doug Crosse
Liasion: Ian Hyde Lay

French Barbarians Name World Class Line up for Rugby Canada Challenge

from David Davies
posted June 20 2008

Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada June 19, 2008:

This week the French Barbarians announced the player line up for their match against Canada to be played as the feature game during Victoria’s Rugby Canada Challenge June 27 and 28 at Bullen Park in Esquimalt. With a roster of players with established international careers as well as players from Rugby World Cup games in 2007, organizers are expecting to attract a big crowd.

“The calibre of the Barbarian team is very high, featuring internationally recognized players. These guys are the very best players in the world and are household names in rugby playing nations,” says Tom Woods, Rugby Canada Challenge organizer. “This line up would draw 100,000 in London, Paris, Auckland or Sydney so we have a major coup for sports fans in Victoria who are totally starved for this level of play.”

“Their half back pairing of Andrew Mehrtens (New Zealand All-Blacks, 70 Caps 994 test points for NZ) and Agustin Pichot (Argentina Pumas, 71 Caps, 22 as Captain including 2007 World Cup and 60 points) is unbelievable,” Woods stated further. “A good comparison in basketball would be having your starting guards listed as Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. These guys practice in front of 3000 people and seeing them play in Esquimalt at Bullen Park will be like watching the Oilers and the Canucks at Archie Browning Sports Centre.”

Other key players announced today include Kees Meeuws (NZ All Blacks, 45 Caps, Anton Oliver (NZ All Blacks, 59 Caps) David Auradou (France, 45 Caps) and French Internationals Julien Pierre, Vincent Debaty, Abrahim Diarra, Marc Raynaud, Julien Peyrelongue, Ludovic Valbon, Jean-Francois Coux. Eric Champ will be Tour Director.

The French Barbarians are known in the sport for their flamboyant, open and entertaining style of play. Players are selected to this elite roster by invitation only and it is a true rugby honour to be called. The Canadian National team will need to bring its best game on June 28, which promises to be action packed.

“As a National team athlete, these are the guys you live to play against,” says Team Canada hooker Pat Riordan and UVic Vikes standout. “They are truly the best players in the world over the past decade and this could well be the best Rugby team to play on North American soil since New Zealand was here in 1989.”

“This is a great example of what sport tourism in action. All teams will be travelling to Victoria and all are staying in hotels downtown. We have team members and spectators travelling on the Victoria Clipper, flying direct from San Francisco on the new United Airlines flight and even jumping on the Helijet from Vancouver. It shows what a draw international sports can be for Greater Victoria,” says Woods.

Also during Rugby Canada Challenge two U.S. Classics Eagles teams will face off against the Canadian Classics Rugby team in what are anticipated to be highly physical and competitive games. Many Classics players are veterans from the 2007 World Cup campaign and are currently under professional contracts and/or playing test level rugby.

Rugby Schedule
All games held at Bullen Park behind the Archie Browning Centre, 1151 Esquimalt Road

Friday, June 27
5:30 pm KO Canadian Classics versus US Eagle Classics (game one - featuring less capped players)
7:00 pm KO Vancouver Island High School All Star XV versus Lower Mainland High School All Star XV

Saturday June 28th
1:00 pm KO Crimson Tide versus Fraser Valley Under 20 game
2:45 pm KO Canadian Classics (game two - featuring multi-capped players) versus US Eagles
4:15 pm KO Canada versus the French Barbarians

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster ( or Archie Browning Sport Centre

Tickets for Friday evening games are $10 and tickets for Saturday admission to see any or all games is $20.

For Event Info or Volunteering Call 250.598.4421

Sponsors of the Rugby Canada Challenge include Lighthouse Brewery, City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt, Westshore Parks and Recreation, the Tudor House Hotel and the Esquimalt Fire Department. Media Sponsors include Time Colonist, CFAX 1070 and KOOL FM.

For Rugby Canada Challenge Sponsorship package and VIP ticket package inquires contact: 250.382.4332

Media Contact
David Davies
HarbourWerks Strategies
Direct: 250.382.4332
Mobile: 250.744.7415

Andrew Mehrtens, Anton Oliver, Agustin Pichot, Kees Meeuws, David Auradou Highlight Barbarians Squad: Full Lineup posted: Player Profiles Added

French Barbarians Player Profiles (in Word .doc format)

[ed. we try to make sure BC Rugby News readers get a head start on Rugby News happening in BC so here's the scoop, more info as we get it.]
posted June 17 2008

Kees Meeuws, Anton Oliver, Andrew Mehrtens (NZ All-Blacks), David Auradou, Agustin Pichot (ex France, Argentina - most importantly ex Stade Francais).

Recent French players - Julien Pierre, Vincent Debaty, Abrahim Diarra, Marc Raynaud, Julien Peyrelongue, Ludovic Valbon, Jean-Francois Coux.













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