(ISN) – Rugby Canada’s Men’s U20 Team Coach Mike Shelley has today unveiled the 26 players – including 6 Vancouver Island players –  who will represent Canada at the IRB’s Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012, which takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah, from June 18 through June 30. The U20 Squad will also face off against the St. Andrews U20 squad Saturday at 7:00 pm at Bear Mountain Stadium in Langford.

This year will be the third time Canada has taken place in the tournament, and the prize up for grabs for the first and second placed teams is promotion to the elite Junior World Cup next year. It is without doubt the highlight of the U20 season and will present a huge challenge to the young Rugby Canada athletes representing their country. “For the players, the JWRT represents a first opportunity to compete on the global stage against their peers. It’s going to be demanding, first of all physically with games every four days, but it will also represent a huge test of character,” Coach Shelley told Rugby Canada.

The tournament marks the culmination of age-group rugby and is of huge importance for the high performance development of Rugby Canada athletes, with planning in place to ensure players are ready to step up to senior level seamlessly. “From a development perspective, it’s our job to be tracking these players as well as possible. Senior men’s head coach Kieran Crowley will be attending the games and the tournament is a key part of our plans for the future leading up to Rugby World Cup 2015 and for the Sevens team for the 2016 Olympic Games,” he said.

While significant work will be done identifying players capable of making that step up, Shelley also said he will be looking for those capable of giving their all as part of a group. “The JWRT will is hugely important as an indicator not only as a way to grade how individuals perform, but also for the team as whole. The key to it is we want to win together as a team,” he said

Canada will be up against familiar opponents in Pool Play, being drawn against Zimbabwe and runners-up for the past two years Japan for the third straight tournament, and last year’s hosts Georgia for the second time in a row, meaning the coaching team goes into the competition knowing just how tough the task will be. “I have a huge amount of respect for all these teams,” Shelley said. “At last year’s tournament in Tbilisi  we came up against them all. We noted how enthusiastically and how well they groom their players in Georgia. We know the physicality of their game and the preparation they put into it, and the same applies to Japan.”

Four players return from that tournament to the 2012 roster – Sean Ferguson, Mike Fuailefau, Clayton Meeres and Cam Stones, and Shelley said he would be looking for them to use that experience to help the team. “We have a group of leaders within the team, but it’s not only the guys coming back from last year. Jake Ilnicki as tight head prop plays one of the most important positions on the team, and he has shown over the past few months that he has good leadership qualities as well.”

“We also have someone in Taylor Paris with great experience; he’s been on two Sevens Circuits and to a Rugby World Cup with the senior guys.” Paris may be an anomaly in going to the RWC before the JWRT, but there is plenty of incentive for his teammates, who will know that by putting their hands up in this tournament, they’ll be taking a big first step toward playing on the sport’s greatest stage themselves.

1.    Jake Ilnicki  – UVic Vikes/ Williams Lake Rustlers (Williams Lake, BC)
2.    Noah Barker – Vancouver Rowers ( Courtenay, B.C)
3.    Alex Marshall -Vandals RFC/The Rock (St. John’s, NL)
4.    Lucas Hoppe – Lindsey RFC/ Ontario Blues (Omemee, ON)
5.    Casey Reed -Moosejaw Nads (Airdrie, AB)
6.    Eric Selvaggi – Aurura Barbarians (Woodbridge, ON)
7.    Jacob Rumball – Balmy Beach Rugby Club (Toronto ON)
8.    Andrew McGinn – JBAA (Victoria, BC)
9.    Ryan Monahan – Baymen Rugby Club, The Rock (CBS, NL)
10.    Cam Stones – Ajax Wanderers (Whitby, ON)
11.    Matthew Heaton – St-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC (Godmanchester, QC)
12.    Fuku Vikilani – Burnaby Lake Club (Vancouver, BC)
13.    Chase Kelliher – Capilano RFC (North Vancouver, BC)
14.    Lukas Balkovec – Waterloo Country (Kitchener, ON)
15.    Andrew Ferguson – Oakville Crusaders (Mississauga ON)
16.    Mike Dalsin – Castaway Wanderers (Victoria, BC)
17.    Conor McCann – Balmy Beach RFC (Toronto, ON)
18.    Doug Crowe – Rowing Club (Courtenay, BC)
19.    Clayton Meeres – Abbotsford RFU (Chilliwack BC)
20.    Taylor Paris – Ontario Blues (Barrie, ON)
21.    Michael Fuailefau -UVIC Vikes (Victoria, BC)
22.    Gradyn Bowd – Red Deer Titans (Red Deer, AB)
23.    Jon West – Markham Irish RFC (Scarborough, ON)
24.    Patrick Kay -UVIC Vikes (Duncan, BC)
25.    Josh Hart – Cowichan RFC (Minitonas, MB)
26.    Lucas Hammond – Toronto Nomads (Toronto, ON)

u20 upcoming schedule
Warm up matches
May 23 vs. USA U20 at Shawnigan School – lost 22-27
May 26 vs. USA U20 at Bear Mountain – lost 34-28
June 9 vs. St. Andrews U20 at Bear Mountain

IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy
June 18 vs. Georgia U20 at Utah
June 22 vs. Japan U20 at Utah
June 26 vs. Zimbabwe U20 at Utah
June 30 Finals at Utah