Canada U20 Updates – January 2024

Adam Roberts Resigns as U20 Head Coach; Scotland to Host 2024 JWRT

It’s difficult to get any answers out of Rugby Canada on the men’s U20 program, a critical link to the men’s XVs program. Stephen Aboud was announced in May 2023 as the head of the High Performance programs but 9 months later he’s doing his best impersonation of the invisible man.

We did find out a couple of key pieces of information on the U20 program, Adam Roberts, the head coach, has resigned from the program and Scotland will host the 2024 JWRT at the end of June.

Rugby Canada haven’t announced either of these, there hasn’t been a call put out looking for a new head coach. The coaches for the men’s U20 program have traditionally been part-time positions, Adam is a school teacher. His predecessor Jeff Williams also worked in the school system. Is it time for a full time paid position, perhaps working in conjunction with the Pacific Pride program?

There are some leading candidates that come to mind such as Jamie Cudmore and Robin MacDowell. Curry Hitchborn is tied up with the Vancouver Highlanders from May to September but would he consider taking on the role? Damian McGrath is between jobs and will be at the Vancouver 7s as the guest of Karl Fix, it it possible to lure him back to Canadian rugby. Francois Ratier is in France now but would he take on the role? All these coaches have proven Canadian track records of growing and managing the game successfully. Stephen Aboud was Director of High Performance when the Kingsley Jones contract extension was announced, so at this point there’s not a lot of faith that he’s going to make the best decisions for Canadian rugby.

An indicator of where Rugby Canada’s focus is at the present may lay in their current job postings. Two of the jobs are focused on Marketing, Sponsorship and Promotions. A third job is for a Specialist – Policy & Research. The position will focus on Gender Equity, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Sport. This seems the way Rugby Canada as an organization is evolving, less about rugby and more about solidifying their main revenue streams, which includes the federal government.

Rugby Canada Executive Team

Nathan Bombrys: Chief Executive Officer
Stephen Aboud: Director, High Performance
Tania Richards: Managing Director, Commercial and Marcoms
Stuart Kerby: Director, Finance & Administration
Jamie Levchuk: Managing Director, Operations & Game Development
Gareth Rees: Director, Commercial & Program Relations

Not on that list is Dustin Hopkins, Managing Director, Rugby Operations who by accounts is handling the high performance decisions at the age-grade levels, U19 and under.

If we look south of the border at our closest rivals, USA, we see a different picture. A story in Americas Rugby News revealed they are looking to enter a USA development side into the MLR as the Charlotte Hawks, an extension of the USA Hawks program. The move is purportedly financed by World Rugby, prompting Canadian rugby supporters to ask where is World Rugby money in Canada going?

Canada and USA battle each year to see who will represent North America at the Tier 2 JWRT U20 championship.  The countries alternate hosting and generally the country that hosts gets the favourable results, last year USA hosted and won convincingly but Canada had won 3 straight before COVID 2017 to 2019. It will be Canada’s turn to host in 2024 and it’s expected that Canada will put in a strong performance. It will be a litmus test to see if Canada under Stephen Aboud is keeping abreast of USA.

The game changer south of the border is when they named former USA U20 coach, and national team player, Scott Lawrence as the new Head Coach and General Manager of the men’s XVs after Gary Gold failed to qualify USA for the World Cup. Canada on the other hand kept their coach, Kingsley Jones, and extended his contract after he failed to qualify Canada for the World Cup. The USA men’s XVs program has been out performing Canada, both at the senior and U20 level, qualifying for the JWRT in 2023 and winning the La Vila tournament in Spain.

The 2024 U20 campaign is one to watch.

On the issue of hosting in Scotland, it has been speculated for a while that this would be the outcome. Netherlands won the European region as Scotland didn’t enter, the only way for Scotland to qualify for the JWRT and win promotion to the Tier 1 JWC was to host the tournament. Last year Scotland disappointed and came 3rd in the JWRT behind Spain and Uruguay, Spain was promoted to Tier 1. As host they’ll expect to win the tournament this year, hopefully Canada will be at the tournament to say otherwise.

Posted in Front Page, Rugby Canada.

One Comment

  1. Interesting update. None of the U20 coaches deserved to have been invited back anyway, with such poor results over the last few years. The whole executive of Rugby Canada need to be booted, but no one has the will to do it…Gareth Rees epitomizes what’s wrong with RC; just empire building and hob nobbing with their buddies at WR. It’s quite shameful honestly. And good luck coaxing back the likes of McGrath or Ratier the way RC treated them…Just a clown show all around sadly.

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