Pacific Nations Cup rugby comes to Ontario

The Fijian rugby team lay down the challenge to Canada in a 2007 match in Cardiff. Photo: Rob Stradling, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The Fijian rugby team lay down the challenge to Canada in a 2007 match in Cardiff. Photo: Rob Stradling, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

An Ottawa cyclist I know was commuting home on sleepy Twin Elm Road last Wednesday evening. Only it was far from sleepy! He said it was crawling with cars and people, flocking to see a big rugby match between Canada and Fiji, part of the 2013 Pacific Nations Cup matches, which began in May and conclude June 23rd.

Twin Elm Road bisects farm country between Richmond and Nepean, to the south-west of urban Ottawa. One of its better-kept secrets is a rather nice rugby pitch, Twin Elm Rugby Park.

Team Canada fans in Cardiff. Photo: Rob Stradling, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Team Canada fans in Cardiff. Photo: Rob Stradling, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Canada took that match, edging out a 20-18 win, as detailed in this article by Robert Murray from the Rugby Canada website (which includes video of game highlights.). Here’s more coverage from the Ottawa Sun, with 10 photos.

According to the International Rugby Board, Canada and the USA are new additions to this Pacific Nations grouping, which includes Fiji, Tonga and Japan. Defending champion Samoa is on a sabbatical of sorts “…to play in a quadrangular competition in South Africa in June against the Springboks, Scotland and Italy.”)

There’s a well-known saying about rugby, which comes in various versions. The most famous being something like this, in which football = soccer:

football is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans while rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen

In true Internet fashion, this is variously attributed (in whole or part) to everyone from Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde to Kipling (if not others!)

Real rugby buffs have tried to track the quote down. And – as you’d expect – there are a number of blogs devoted to the sport, such as this from Sean Fagan.

I can’t tell how rugby is doing in Northern New York, but it seems increasingly common in Canada. I’m not sure what measurements were used but this source reports: “…global participation has increased by 19% since the last Rugby World Cup in France.”  (That took place in 2007.)

There seems to be growing enthusiasm for rugby among the high school age group, for both genders. Here’s a school paper article out of Montana that speaks to that trend.

It’s most definitely a contact sport, which comes with significant risk of injury, or worse. But many who try it love it. The late actor Richard Harris was known to wax rhapsodic about the sport:

“It belongs to the heart, not the head. Something to be embraced, or spurned – there can be no middle ground. There are those who stare blank-faced when I talk of rugby but others instantly understand my breathless enthusiasm and stomach-churning anxiety. We are the lucky ones.”

Wow. Sport as transformative bliss. And you just thought it was odd English football played without pads.

Canada will meet Tonga in Kingston, ON, Saturday June 8 (details at the very bottom of this article).

In non-Pacific Cup matches later this summer, USA will meet Canada in Charleston, SC Aug 17. Canada will take on the USA in Toronto Aug 24 (both of those are World Cup Qualifying matches.)

Have you tried rugby? What’d you think?

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