Three players from the Surrey/Delta area are among those in England for a rugby trip of a lifetime.
North Delta-raised Mike O’Toole, along with Surrey products Liam Murphy-Burke and Quinton Willms, are with the UBC Thunderbirds men’s team at the inaugural World University Rugby Cup (WURC), which began Tuesday (Sept. 15) in Oxford, England.
The tourney, hosted by prestigious Oxford University, involves eight universities from leading rugby nations, including Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and others.
The 29-man UBC team is the lone North American entry.
“It’s very exciting,” O’Toole told the Now last Friday (Sept. 11), a day before the team boarded a plane for London.
“We heard about this tour three years ago and everyone was wondering if it was really going to go down, so it’s something we’ve been working toward since then,” said O’Toole, a 2011 Seaquam Secondary grad who lines up on the back row with UBC.
During high school in North Delta, O’Toole played rugby for all of his five years.
“We didn’t really have a program there at the time, so my buddies and I got it going with my dad (Gerard O’Toole) as the coach,” he recalled. “He’s Welsh, so he had me playing (rugby) since I was a kid.”
Murphy-Burke, a wing who grew up in the Ocean Park area and graduated from Semiahmoo Secondary, said he was “super excited” to compete in England.
“I’ve been lucky enough to go on tour (with the UBC team) a couple of times, but this one is going to be pretty special,” he said in a phone interview. “The level of competition will be really high, and with the Rugby World Cup happening there at the same time, there’ll be lots going on.”
Members of the UBC team will bus to Cardiff, Wales, to watch the Canada-Ireland World Cup match this coming Saturday (Sept. 19).
As for their own games in the WURC, the Thunderbirds were in action twice on Tuesday (Sept. 15), first against New Zealand Universities and later versus Trinity College Dublin. Click here for the latest results.
They’ll finish group play on Friday (Sept. 18) against Siberian Federal University.
All pool matches are played at St. Edward’s School in Oxford, with placement round action starting Sunday (Sept. 20) at Iffley Road, home of the Oxford University Rugby Football Club.
This season, the UBC squad is aiming to build on an impressive 2014 campaign in which they captured the two-game “World” Cup (defeating the California Golden Bears), the Wightman Boot Series against Victoria and also the CDI Premier League, winning its first Rounsefell Cup since 1947.
Following the WURC tournament, the Thunderbirds will make the return trip on Sept. 22 and begin qualification for a place in the CDI Premier League Competition, which begins in the new year.