Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - Submitted by RC Communications
The Foundation of Canadian Rugby: The National Festival Championships Quebec is the place to be this week as the National Championship Festival in Sherbrooke has officially kicked off.
The festival opens on August 8th and is currently underway as over 750 athletes and 27 teams from nine provinces will battle it out for gold at Bishop’s University and Bishop’s College School in Sherbrooke. The divisions this year are U16 Men, U18 Men and U18 Women. The games will start on August 8, and the festival closes with the medal matches on August 12.
Ontario and British Columbia are historically major players and bitter rivals in every division when it comes to festival tournaments. The 2010 National Festival Championships took place at Calgary Rugby Park in Alberta. Ontario’s U18 Men defeated British Columbia in a one-sided 43-13 match to take gold, while the U16 Men defeated BC 1 in a close 29-26 battle. Ontario narrowly missed a clean sweep of the championship, as their U19 Women could not penetrate the strong Quebec defense, and settled for silver after losing a tense 15-14 matchup.
The BC Men rose to power when the festival returned to Calgary last year. Their Men’s U18 downed Ontario 38-33 to take gold in what was an exciting clash of East versus West. The U16 BC Men were even more successful, as they easily snagged the gold after scoring 14 tries and defeated Newfoundland 88-5. Ontario’s Women managed to maintain their grip on national supremacy. The U18 Women’s gold medal match saw them take to the pitch against their arch rivals in the West. Ontario took an early lead, leaving BC hard-pressed to catch up, and the match ended 34-18 in Eastern favour.
This year’s festival could yield completely different results, however. Quebec teams often compete with fury when they play at home and this could have a major influence on the results of each division. The talent pool for Ontario and BC has been largely divided this year as both provinces are sending in two teams for the Men’s U18 division. Alberta and Newfoundland often produce strong teams in every division and are not to be counted out and as rugby has sharply risen in popularity from coast to coast in past years, a dark horse team in the U16 division could appear from any province.
The National Festival Championships are not just about bitter rivalries and national rugby dominance, however. Rugby Canada staff are watching every game closely to hand pick the country’s best and brightest, as the top players from East to West are all in one city for four days of games. The athletes in all divisions are aware that a standout performance could open doors for a long career in the sport of rugby and the players who really want it shine on the festival fields. For the U16 Men, a strong performance could be a gateway to the National and Provincial U18 levels, while U18 Men and Women are closing in to the Senior levels and need to perform well to maintain a foothold in top leagues such as the CRC and international rugby.
In general, the National Festival Championships is the best insight into the future of Canadian rugby. Follow Rugby Canada’s coverage of the National Festival and find out!