The 2009 BC Bears

A Look Back at 2009 BC Bears Preparation for the Inaugural ARC Under the Leadership of Mike James

[editor’s comments below]

This trip in the wayback machine was prompted by the Facebook discussion on the Rugby Canada announcement of Kingsley Jones contract extension for 2 years. Some of the discussion is entertaining, some is informative and some educational for all the wrong reasons.

My favourite is the welsh ex-pat living in Canada who defends Kingsley and figures the head coach job doesn’t include providing “sufficient quality to perform at the top level” [it should do], that he coached Russia to its first World Cup [he didn’t, was consultant, became coach afterwards], and that he’s taught Phil Mac [sic] so much. That was educational as it probably represents the intel going back to the home nations and in a round about way influences the decision making of those who hold the purse strings, it also shows that the colonial attitude is still alive and well.

Brock Nicholson requested the 2003 letter written by Mike James that gave BC Rugby a “tongue lashing” following the NZ Maori game. BCRN started in 2004 so we don’t have that letter but we do have the 2009 account of Mike James preparing BC for the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship and that’s instructive.

Mike James, an iconic Canadian rugby player, put his words into action and led the BC team to the final of the ARC, losing to the Argentina Jaguares in the final. It was a credible performance, BC going 3-0 in the Canadian division defeating Ontario, the Rock and the Prairie Wolfpack. They lost to Argentina by 35-11 with Nathan Hirayama scoring all the points for Canada. The Argentinians had defeated a USA Selects team 57-10 a week earlier. BC Rugby and Canadian rugby were in a relatively strong position. Mike James typified the strong Canadian presence at the coaching level, applying what they had learned playing professionally in Europe. Jamie Cudmore was supposed to be this era’s equivalent, and successor to Kingsley Jones.

Reading through the buildup to the 2009 ARC campaign gives you an idea of the energy and planning that was required. Mike had brought in a team of Canadian legends as well, Hans de Goede, Nik Witkowski, Rod Holloway. There’s a huge amount of talent in the Canadian rugby community in the areas of coaching, managing and organizing high performance campaigns.

It’s an insult to Canadian rugby to ignore those resources and settle for a two year extension of wandering in the wilderness.

Note: Read the following from the bottom up for the correct timeline, it starts with the BC v Oxford match in 2008

BC Probables vs. Possibles Match at Klahanie @ 12:30pm Saturday
posted August 2 2009

If you’ve got nothing on tomorrow (Saturday) head over to Klahanie Park in North Van for a trial match between the Probables and the Possibles as the BC Bear franchise looks to narrow down the selections for the game against Ontario on September 12th.

The 2009 IRB Americas Rugby Championship schedule for the Bears is as follows:

• Saturday, September 12 – BC Bears vs Ontario Blues
Brockton Oval, Stanley Park, Vancouver

• Saturday, September 19 – The Rock vs BC Bears
St. John’s, Newfoundland

• Saturday, September 26 – BC Bears vs Prairie Wolf Pack
Brockton Oval, Stanley Park, Vancouver


1 Hanmer Rhodri
2 Riordan Pat
3 Daniel Nick
4 Cudmore Luke
5 Erichsen Brian
6 Johnson Ben
7 Meechan Neil
8 McKinnon Glen
9 Fairhurst Ed
10 Hirayama Nathan
11 Nicholson Brock
12 Panga Clay
13 Jenkins Sam
14 Townsend Derek
15 Jones Harry


1 Down Rob
2 Hamilton Ryan
3 Houlihan Peter
4 Burak Mike
5 Mackay Mike
6 Marshall Jason
7 Van Staveren Adam
8 McKenzie Colin
9 White Sean
10 Jones Charlie
11 Mercier Shawn
12 Prochine Andrei
13 Sigarua Ismeli
14 Okech Michael
15 Buckley Matt


Ferguson Sean
Yanagiya Matt
Murray Liam
Gay Seamus
Clarke Josh
Palmer Will
Cejvanovic Admir
Hill Jonathan
Fiss Daniel
Hirst Jacob
Georgas Mike
Other An


Scales Joe injured
Duke Sean away
Braid Connor away
Yoon Francis away

Interview with BC Coach Mike James After the BC Blue v BC Gold Match
posted August 2 2009

[BCRN] You had a first chance to look at a full inter-squad game on Saturday, what were your thoughts in terms of what you liked and where you saw room for improvement?

[MJ] I think the players realized the opportunity to make the ARC squad was in play on the day. There were some very good initiatives and actions of play. Little structure was given in the preparation as our focus has been on fitness and basic skills. With this preparation taking place over summer, we have had to manage a revolving door of player attendance and commitment. We will certainly as a team improve as the squad will be focussed on the rugby preparation from now on.

[BCRN] You’ve put a big focus on fitness, in what aspects of the game do
you expect to really notice the results?

[MJ] I believe that for us to win the competition, we need to be able to outrun the opposition for 80 minutes. Rugby is a completely different game when players are fit. I expect that the players continue to improve on their fitness so we can outwork the opposition come game time. I believe the majority of the team can be fitter in a short time and they need to get their carcasses to training and do the hard work starting yesterday.

[BCRN] Were there any players on Saturday who stood out and moved up in your

[MJ] I think the trial match served its purpose. It gave almost 50 players the opportunity to play and show before the selectors. Some showed well, some confirmed our thoughts, some showed their limitations. Our policy is to choose the best players available that best fulfill the criterion of our selectors. We as coaches have endeavoured to offer the opportunity of success to all players. They have had the chance to do organized pre-season fitness 3 times a week in 4 locations throughout BC since June 30. There have been camps, there have been assessments. The opportunity has been presented. Some took advantage of this avenue for success, others not. The competition is in its first year and I hope next year, the buy-in will be even greater as the players realize the expectations and commitment to play high-level rugby. I believe every local player wants to play for BC and ultimately, Canada. We want to enable this dream and provide the framework for the players to do so.

[BCRN] How will you handle the situation with “big name” players who for one
reason or another haven’t been available for training but are available to

[MJ] Due to the formalities of the competition, 6 weeks before the first match, we have to name a protected list of senior and U-20 players. We have done so. Some names on the list will not have been present for our preparations to date due to National team commitments or other reasons. We have extended an olive branch to these players. There is no guarantee the game days rosters will be entirely comprised of our protected players. The protected list is a snapshot of players we want to work further with. I will only name players on current form that I have seen and not on other people`s recommendations or past performance. The coaching staff has a few aces up our sleeve. There are a few players on our radar that need to front up immediately to be part of the show. We are following procedure as needed by the IRB. Whoever makes our final team rosters as we move forwards, will fulfill our requirements of fitness, aggressiveness and skill. There is not one player in BC that is bigger than the whole of the team. I will not cater to anything less than full commitment to the program. The ARC competition is a significant step up from club rugby. The protected list will differ from the final game day rosters.

[BCRN] What’s the next step for the BC team?

[MJ] The preparations will continue with Run Club and rugby camps every Sunday in August. We have one month to accomplish many things. I believe we have engaged some excellent people in the BC Rugby set-up. The clock is ticking until our first encounter against Ontario. The players need to have the commitment for the next 2 months to be part of something special. We have the potential to achieve something remarkable but all will be determined by the efforts of the players.

BC Men Told “Fitness Rules”: Run Club Set Up for July on Island and Mainland
[ed. comments below with files from Mike James]
posted June 30 2009

Mike James is serious about fitness for his BC team with the message “fitness is a primary criteria for selection”. He’s set up a Run Club for players on the Mainland and on the Island with Nik Witkowski running the Island sessions.

The fitness programme runs 3 days a week [I assume Mon, Wed, Fri] for July to enable the players to be fit for the Fall competition.

1. Esquimalt High 6:30 PM
2. Point Grey Secondary 7:30 PM
3. Burnaby Central Secondary 7:30 PM

These sessions are programmed and under the supervision of BC Rugby staff.

All players are more than encouraged to attend.

This is what to expect:

10 min warm up

5 Sets x (6 x 30 sec hard interval: 30 sec active rest between intervals)
5 min active recovery between sets

10 min warm down

Volume of Work: 15 min
Work out time: approximately 65 mins

BC Senior Men Take to Pitch this Weekend
BCRU Press Release
posted June 26 2009

This past Monday and Tuesday 64 individuals attended “Meet and Greet” sessions in Victoria and Burnaby to discuss the expectations to be part of the 2009 BC Senior Men who will compete in the Americas Rugby Championship.

With insight from Mike James, Hans de Goede, Nik Witkowski, Rod Holloway and others, players in attendance appeared excited at the opportunity to play for British Columbia.

With the open-camp this weekend several players have confirmed they will be at UBC on Saturday. This list of players, including both walk-ons and targeted athletes, currently sits at 134. Coach James and his management team have the challenging task of whittling this group down to an IRB protected list of 42 players by August 1st.

To achieve this, an open camp will be held at UBC Wolfson this Saturday, June 27th starting at 12:00 Noon. A trial camp will be held on Sunday, July 19th followed by a selection camp on Sunday, July 26th. The BC Blue versus BC Gold trial match will be held on Saturday, August 1st; the same day as the National U20 Men’s Final. BC Rugby fans will be pulling for the VRU U20 squad (2009 Dunbar Cup Championship) to defeat Calgary in the Western Final the weekend prior (Saturday, July 25th) which would set up an excellent double header in Vancouver on August 1st.

BC Men’s Open Camp – Saturday, June 27th
BC Men’s Trial Camp – Sunday, July 19th
VRU U20 vs Calgary U20 – Saturday, July 25th
BC Men’s Selection Camp – Sunday, July 26th
National U20 Men’s Final – Saturday, August 1st
BC Blue vs BC Gold Fixture – Saturday, August 1st

About the Americas Rugby Championship

The Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) is new in 2009. It is an expansion of the North America 4 competition which allows provincial unions (British Columbia and Ontario) and regions (Atlantic and Prairies) to operate under an amateur franchise model. In addition to the four teams in Canada there are teams in the United States and one in Argentina.

Players who are eligible to play for Canada at the following Rugby World Cup are eligible for the ARC. Player selection to the Canadian franchises is based upon Place of Origin, which is defined as either where the player was born or where the player competed in their first senior game in Canada.

The ARC is primarily funded by the International Rugby Board (IRB), the body responsible for the global development of the game. The ARC is focused on supporting the National Senior Men’s Program and is an integral pathway for players with aspirations to play for Canada.

The British Columbia franchise will be lead by Head Coach Mike James and Manager Hans de Goede. The remainder of the management team will be announced in the near future, but the plan for selecting the team and preparing the squad are now in operation.

Ninety-eight players have been long-listed for British Columbia. There will also be an opportunity for those not on the long-list to attend initial sessions in Vancouver and Victoria. Players making themselves available for the ARC program will be required to commit to a summer fitness program that will include testing at regular intervals by the team’s strength and conditioning coaches.

Training sessions, including a selection game will lead up to the important date of August 1st. At that time, all Canadian franchises are required to submit their Protected Player List. This protected list can include up to 42 players, 12 of which must be Under 20 players (i.e. those currently competing in Japan at the U20 World Cup). Players not on the protected list can be picked up by other Canadian franchises after August 1st.

The focus in August will be preparing the squad for BC’s first game on September 12 in British Columbia versus traditional rivals from Ontario. BC will travel to St. John’s, Newfoundland the following weekend to take on the Atlantic franchise on September 19. The Prairies will travel to British Columbia for a fixture on September 26.

On October 10, the top place finisher out of the head-to-head Canadian fixtures will host the second place finisher. On the same date in Miami, the United States and Argentina will play their semi-finals.

The winner of both semi-finals will play for the ARC title, while the losers of the semi-finals will play in a bronze medal match. These two games will be played in Toronto on October 17.

• September 12 – British Columbia vs Ontario
• September 19 – Atlantic vs British Columbia
• September 26 – British Columbia vs Prairies
• October 10 – Canada Seed 1 vs Canada Seed 2 (Semi-Final 1)
• October 10 – United States vs Argentina (Semi-Final 2)
• October 17 – Winner Semi-Final 1 vs Winner Semi-Final 2 (ARC Championship Match)
• October 17 – Loser Semi-Final 1 vs Loser Semi-Final 2 (ARC Bronze Medal Match)

More information will be released soon on BC’s team in the Americas Rugby Championship.

Mike James to Lead Storied BC Rugby Program
Vancouver, BC – The British Columbia Rugby Union today announced Mike James as the head coach of the BC Men’s Provincial team who will compete in the new America’s Rugby Championship (ARC).

James is the most recent coach of the BC Men who played Oxford RFC at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park, Vancouver in September 2008. In 2008-2009 he also serves as the coach of Burnaby Lake RFC who competes in the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League. In addition to his volunteer coaching duties, James has built a successful mortgage business since arriving back to his home province.

In 2007 James retired from professional rugby as a veteran lock for Stade Français of the Top 14 League in France. With over 50 international caps for Canada, including appearances in four Rugby World Cups, James has a deep understanding of the domestic rugby landscape as well. In turning his attention to coaching James will draw on his extensive experience as a player.

As all BC Rugby legends have done, James benefited from playing for the BC Men while pursuing a national and professional career.

“With the expansion of the North America 4 competition, the ARC will provide British Columbia with the opportunity to annualize meaningful competition for one of the province’s most storied programs,” said James. “It is an honour for players to play for British Columbia, and it is an honour for me to be involved.”

The ARC is primarily funded by the International Rugby Board (IRB) featuring four franchises in Canada, four in the United States and one in Argentina. While details regarding the BC program will be released in the coming months (see below “Name Our Team Contest”), the BC schedule for the ARC will be as follows for 2009 (home team listed first):

– September 12 – British Columbia vs Ontario
– September 19 – Atlantic vs British Columbia
– September 26 – British Columbia vs Prairies
– October 10 – Canada Seed 1 vs Canada Seed 2 (TBC)

On October 17, the winner of the October 10th fixture will play the winner of USA vs Argentina for the North American title. The two losing semi finalists will play in the bronze medal match. Both games will be in Toronto.

Under the leadership of Mike James and his management team, the program will continue to take shape. More details will be communicated at the completion of the BC Rugby club season.

For interview requests, or to send a message to Coach James, please email Alex Cameron (


Profession: Mortgage Broker (

Coach: BC Senior Men + Burnaby Lake Rugby Club

British Columbia Honours: BC Under 19 and BC Senior Men

National Honours: 58 Caps for Canada, 4 World Cups

Professional Honours: 7 years Stade Francais, 4 years USA Perpignan

Most Influential Coach: Nick Mallett

Name Our Team Contest

With the merger of one of the province’s most historic programs soon to compete as BC’s newest franchise in the IRB American’s Rugby Championship, it is time to pick a team name.

Please submit your suggestion to Alex Cameron via email at by April 30, 2009. The winner will be awarded an Adidas Rugby package and a team Xtreme Rugby Wear jersey of the newly named program.

To enter your submissions please provide your full name and mailing address.

Oxford Give BC Selects the Blues: Match Report by Ben Buan
posted Sept 28 2008

“It’s a cruel game, rugby” voiced a disappointed BC Selects head coach Mike James as he reflected on the great effort from his side that fell short of a victory over the touring Oxford Blues. Two first half gift tries and two late tries as the replacements had all been run on and a man had been binned, proved to be the difference in a game where BC’s overall skill and effort was deserving of them having been winners.

“The boys did everything we asked them to do” said James. “They defended well and the forwards did a great job of creating the opportunities for our backs. Our mistakes cost us in the end”

An enthusiastic crowd of between 1,500 and 2,000 by my estimate cheered on the primarily lower mainland squad, in what was a wide-open and entertaining affair. Rowing Club winger Brock Nicholson, Meraloma centre Sam Jenkins and UBC Tbirds Harry Jones all showed great speed and ability to break through the Oxford defensive lines on numerous occasions. Jenkins and Jones each scored a try on fine individual efforts at the end of multiple-phase attacks where the ball passed through numerous sets of hands. James Bay’s scrum half Sean White scored the third BC try scooting out from the edge of a ruck after a strong series of forward drives deep in the Oxford end near the end of the first half.

The game started with the packs testing each other out and as expected Oxford’s forwards looked to see how much they could get away with at the breakdown. It appeared to be more than BC and the fans expected at first as the penalty count mounted against BC in the early minutes, resulting in an early penalty goal for Oxford’s #10 Swanson. The BC forwards quickly adapted aided by gritty in your face performances throughout from the back five where Capilano Jason Marshall was particularly effective, the Meraloma locks Erichsen and Buan did as James had asked them and got well inside the personal comfort zone of some of the Oxford forwards, while U Vic’s Tom McKeen and Rower’s Mike Webb exhibited a high work rate and tenacious tackling for a full 80 minutes.

After Oxford’s opening score a dangerous attack was launched by Bayside centre Sigarua down the left sideline. He passed to Brock Nicholson who raced another 20 meters before pushing a grubber kick past the last defender but in the race to the goal line the defender managed to disrupt Nicholson enough to force a knock on.

A few minutes later young Harry Jones committed a costly error as he elected to let a clearing kick near his own 22 bounce rather than gather it in, and the bounce was directly into the hands of the onrushing Oxford winger who scored easily under the posts. The try was converted and Oxford had a 10-0 lead.

BC countered with a great multi-phase attack with Jenkins, Jones and McDowell featuring prominently. BC camped inside the Oxford 22 and were advancing with good ball possession through the forwards. The ball came out to McDowell to the right of a ruck and with a forward available to continue the inside drive and a winger out wide, he made the wrong choice and tried a skip pass out to the wing that was almost taken directly from his hands by the eager Oxford inside centre. McDowell’s desperate attempt to ankle tackle the thieving opportunist failed and it was left to Harry Jones to carry out the 80 metre pursuit but without success. 17-0 Oxford.

Undaunted Jenkins and Nicholson again combined for a long run, and a bullocking run by Jason Marshall almost resulted in a try, but BC had to settle for a drop goal by McDowell to at least get on the scoreboard. Oxford countered with another penalty to make the score 20-3 with ten minutes left in the half.

Oxford had a man sent off for repeated infringements and BC rose to the occasion. Jenkins scored a superb try as he powered and swivelled his way through a line of defenders to score from 25 meters out. McDowell missed the conversion and BC trailed 20-8.

Minutes later Jenkins started another attack combining with Nicholson again, hooker Dan Fumano joined the fray to lumber another 20 meters or so before offloading to Jenkins but the Oxford defence recovered just in time to prevent another score. As the half neared its end more forward dominated pressure created the opportunity for White to break free from 10 meters out and race to the right corner for a try that McDowell converted for a halftime score of Oxford 20, BC 15.

Jenkins again ignited the BC side off the second half restart as he took the ball from Jones and broke clear with Sigarua and Nicholson in support, but the last ball carrier was eventually forced into touch inside the Oxford 22.

Jason Marshall had a strong run that led to a penalty against Oxford that McDowell was able to goal to narrow the score to 20-18.

BC continued to dominate space and possession and from a 20 meter line-out on the far sidelines the ball was cycled through the hands of Buan, McDowell, and Jenkins across the field and into the hands of Jones who made a superb cut back to freeze the Oxford winger and score left of the posts. McDowell rang his convert off the right upright and BC now led 23-20 and had the momentum.

Another promising scoring chance off the efforts of the forwards was snuffed out when an Oxford player managed to hold up the BC forward and Oxford regained possession off the ensuing 5 meter scrum. A quick counter down the far sideline by the speedy Oxford winger reversed the momentum and eventually led to a score in the left corner leading to a slim 25-23 lead for Oxford.

A collective breakdown led to the last Oxford try as their #10 Swanson ran from right to left across almost the entire field, with the BC defenders resembling a handshake tunnel as no one appeared willing to tackle him, but merely keep him running toward the sidelines. Unfortunately for BC the gap between the last BC man and the sideline was large enough for Swanson to turn the corner and score the decisive try.

Despite the disappointing ending, it was a fine effort overall and an enjoyable afternoon of entertainment for the fans.

BC Selects Starting Line-Up and Replacements

1. Rhodri Hamner – Meraloma – (Mile Racic – Meraloma)
2. Dan Fumano – Meraloma
3. Jon Thiel – Bayside (Dan Leigh – Bayside)
4. Aidan Buan – Meraloma (Glen McKinnon – Capilano)
5. Brian Erichsen – Meraloma
6. Jason Marshall – Capilano (Christoph Strubin – Capilano)
7. Tom McKeen – U Vic (Connor Christopher – Capilano)
8. Mike Webb – Rowers – Captain
9. Sean White – James Bay
10. Robin McDowell – Burnaby (Nathan Hirayama – U Vic)
11. Brock Nicholson – Rowers
12. Sam Jenkins – Meraloma
13. Isimeli Sigarua – Bayside (Taylor Dalziell)
14. Spencer Baker – Capilano
15. Harry Jones – UBC TBirds

Posted in BC Rugby, Front Page.