Latoya Blackwood has confirmed her retirement from international rugby

    The powerful 32-year-old lock from Montreal, Quebec collected 31 caps for Canada’s Women’s Rugby Team in a glittering career that included playing in two Women’s Rugby World Cups.

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    Latoya Blackwood

    Reflecting on her decision to retire Blackwood stated: “It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I’ve had a great career. It was an honour to attend two World Cups and I created a lot of amazing memories along the way. By stepping down now, I allow a younger player the opportunity to obtain experience and create depth within the program. I want this program to continue evolving for years to come and be a consistent contender on the international stage. Ultimately, I want Canada to bring home gold at the next World Cup so I’m at peace with this decision.”

    Blackwood didn’t have the easiest of pathways to the top of the women’s game but is thankful to the game of rugby for helping her get back up after being knocked down on a number of occasions.

    “I’ve had to overcome a few obstacles during my career, dealing with injuries, and personal set-backs, the most difficult being untimely deaths in my family. I’m very grateful for all the love and support I’ve received from myriad of individuals in the rugby community. Whether it was being a friend, or providing free treatments, it was all very much appreciated.”

    Former coach, François Ratier referred to Blackwood as ‘The Sheriff’ in the locker room. “She’s Rocky Balboa,” said Ratier. “She’s the one who’s come from the streets and had to fight every time to be at this level.”

    “I really enjoyed being an “enforcer” on the pitch so I think François thought being the Sheriff was the right role for me. I felt it was fun off pitch activity that helped build respect for one another and build a positive team culture. Players got to create their own consequences and all members of the team (staff included) would receive a punishment/consequence, so we were able to practice professionalism and have fun at the same time” said Blackwood.

    “Follow your dreams! Believe you can do whatever you set out to do”

    – Latoya Blackwood, National Senior Women’s Player

    “It was a great initiative, I believe sports provide skills that are crucial for everyday life; for example, I try to be at meetings 5 minutes prior because that was a team rule. You’ll sometimes see me speed walking down the halls at work because I get so nervous of being the last one there. It is these details that demonstrate that I care about the time of the other participants” she added.

    Blackwood, who played a key role in some of Canada’s Women’s greatest rugby moments struggled to pick out a favourite but lists the following as her top three career highlights:

    “My first cap in the August 2013 Nations Cup in Colorado USA – defeating England for the first time in the programs history! It was an amazing moment not just for all the players and staff, but for women’s rugby in Canada. I think it was the beginning of the world recognizing Canada as a rugby nation.

    “The 2014 World Cup semi-finals defeating France in front of 20,000 spectators.  It was an amazing feeling, we played for each other and for our loved ones. Pictures from that moment say it all.

    “My second last game, at the 2017 World Cup versus Wales. I had already dedicated that tournament to my mother, but I dedicated that game to my god-brother Greg who passed away days before. To win player of the game and receive the support I did from my team is something I’ll always cherish.”

    Blackwood is excited by the progress being made in the women’s game and believes there is great potential for Canada going forward.”

    Blackwood is very excited by the progress being made in the sport and believes Canada has the talent and potential to compete at the highest level if the correct measures are put in place.

    “It makes me happy to see where Canadian rugby is going, it’s one of the fastest growing team sports in the country and we’re seeing a lot of grassroots programs throughout the nation such as Rugby Quebec’s amazing academy.  Another example is the Rugby Canada Development Academy based out of Belmont Secondary School in Langford. When these young players enter the senior program, you’ll see the core skills (catch-pass, tackle etc.) that countries like New Zealand and England are renowned for and our international success will continue. This will only happen through continued funding so I end this by saying, please keep funding grassroots rugby! Selections shouldn’t be based on who can afford to take time of work/school and pay $2000, it should be the best players, period.”

    Blackwood, who currently resides on Vancouver Island has already commenced the next chapter of her career in the public sector and has big ambitions to stay involved in the game and develop into a top-level professional rugby referee.

    “I think the future is really bright. I’ve settled down in Victoria and plan to start a family. I started an exciting carer in the public sector. I have great colleagues and with their help and guidance I can make a difference in the community. Lastly, refereeing is an amazing challenge for me, and I can still spend my Saturdays on the pitch without feeling it the next day. I’m happy I can stay within the rugby community and give back to the sport. I would love to officiate an international match in the near future, maybe officiate at a World Cup.”

    As someone that knows what it takes to turn a dream into reality, Blackwood offered the following piece of advice for players wanting to fulfil their future goals.

    “Follow your dreams! Believe you can do whatever you set out to do! You will encounter set-backs and obstacles; you might have people telling you to stop and that you’ll wasting your time. Life is too short for ‘what ifs’!”

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