BC Rugby is excited to announce the travelling team for the BC Bears ahead of their Best of the West match against the Prairie Wolfpack, which kicks off this Saturday at 6:00pm (PT) in Red Deer, Alberta. The match will be the first of a two-legged tie, with the home leg taking place on July 27th at the Apple Bowl Stadium in Kelowna.
Head Coach James Thompson has selected a team full of new faces, with only John Braddock (Castaway Wanderers RFC) and Michael Nieuwenhuysen (James Bay AA) returning from the 2018 BC Bears squad. There are a number of other players who have cut their teeth in BC Rep Teams in recent years including Brandon Schellenberger (Castaway Wanderers RFC), Gino Paolella (Burnaby Lake RFC), Taylor de Souza and Zephyr Melnyk (both Nanaimo Hornets RFC). In a year National Programs have called up many players ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Tokyo and World Rugby U20 Trophy, this is an opportunity for players to make an impact and get noticed for 2020 and beyond.
“Over the four training sessions, between the two squads, we have seen around 50 different faces,” said Thompson, speaking the weekend before the clash. “Both the training sessions have been high in intensity and certainly did not lack commitment. Now it is about the finer details and I am confident with the 23 selected we can address these quickly and accurately”
“While we do have a number of really experienced campaigners in the team, this in general terms is a very young squad, and one were I have no doubt will be able to express themselves on the pitch. We have a mobile pack with a big backline, so we are hoping we can move the Wolfpack around the pitch with our big ball runners”
“All in all, it is a fantastic opportunity for a lot these players to finally represent BC for not only their clubs perspective but also family and friends. In total, we have 11 clubs represented in the matchday 23, while over 14 different clubs were involved in the training sessions. For me and the other coaches, this is as important an element as anything else”.
“We are very excited to get down to business on Saturday and know we can come away with a victory.”
Last year’s tie with the Wolfpack saw the Bears lose the opening match by just three points in the dying moments of the first fixture in Alberta. However, bolstered by the strong home support at Klahanie Park, the team produced a strong home leg victory, 39-20, to win the tie on aggregate. The teams would wind up facing each other for a third time in the bronze medal match at the 2018 Canadian Rugby Championships, back in Calgary. The Bears were looking to make amends for not securing a place in the final and produced another impressive performance to win 48-36. With this history of competitive fixtures between the BC Bears and Prairie Wolfpack, there is plenty to look forward to when the Best of the West kicks off this weekend.
BC’s senior women’s team played four split-squad matches with the Wolfpack at the women’s Best of the West tournament at Kelowna’s City Park earlier this month, with the hosts securing a four-game sweep of their Albertan opponents. The Bears will look to replicate the success of their counterparts in the men’s tie.
The game is set to kick off at 6:00pm PT in Red Deer and will be available to stream live on Rugby Alberta’s Facebook page.