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Rugby Canada hitting its stride as men fall in in Worlds

Margaret Sheridan | Interrobang | Sports | October 8th, 2007



For the first time in its history, the Canadian menís rugby team has left the Rugby World Cup without a single win.

Though never a dominating team on the world stage, the Canucks have managed to hold their own since their appearance at the inaugural 1987 RWC in Australia. Their best year came in 1991 when the team made it into the quarterfinalís eventually losing to perennial powerhouse New Zealand.

But thanks to a try in injury time by Japan in a game that should have easily been won by the Canadian team, they leave France with a draw and three losses to their credit. Leading 12-5 going into the third minute of injury time the Canucks watched as Japan punched in for the tying try. Not exactly what the team envisioned when they took to the field versus the Cherry Blossoms in a game that wound up being called the most exciting match at that point in the RWC, a game that had over 30,000 spectators cheering from the stands in Bordeaux, France.

The game became just the second match in tournament history to end in a draw. However despite being in a pool with Worldís second ranked Australia and a strong Welsh squad the Canucks managed to impress with a mixture of veterans who are now giving way to a new, and talented, wave of youngsters graduating from the Rugby Canada program.

When it comes to Canadian sports, rugby tends to be overlooked by most people. However take into consideration that Canada was one of the first countries in the world to establish an organized rugby union, and that North American football can trace itís roots directly back to the sport in both Canada and England and youíre looking at a country brimming with rugby history.

With more than 250 high school teams across the country, the sport is one thatís not only seeing its participation number growing, but is attracting a whole new group of fans who have even taken to following the team to games outside of the country.

However as of now itís hard for fans to follow the national team, or for true rugby fans Super 12 and Six-Nations, play in North America. Aside from periodic games shown, mainly on Sunday mornings on Sportsnet, youíll be hard pressed to find a game on cable, even now while the World Cup is in full swing.

Luckily in August Setanta, a UK sports broadcaster, announced that they were in the process of striking a deal with Rogers Broadcasting to create a pay-per-view digital channel dedicated solely to rugby and soccer matches. And though the English Premier League will take up the majority of the good time slots, the move is a step towards making the sport mainstream. And with rugbyís mix of strategy, power, bone crunching hits and blood, it starts to sound a lot like another popular Canadian pastime.

So perhaps itís just a matter of time until the sport hits its stride in the Canadian market.
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