After more than a decade coaching high-school rugby, Earl Marriott Secondary’s Adam Roberts is used to seeing his young pupils move on to bigger and better things, from university rugby to national and international competitions.
Now, he gets to go with them.
Earlier this week, Roberts – who is an assistant coach with Canada’s under-20 men’s team – and two of his former EMS players, Michael Smith and Reid Davis, set off for Vancouver Island for a final selection camp. From there, the team will train for a week before heading overseas to Bucharest, Romania, host country for the Junior World Rugby Trophy tournament.
“I love coaching at EMS and seeing the kids go on from there – we’ve had loads of players represent Canada at various levels, but it’s totally different to be a part of it now,” Roberts told Peace Arch News earlier this week.
“I’ve coached both guys since they were 13 years old, so I know them really well, and it’s cool to have that connection… and really amazing to have this experience with them.”
Since graduating from EMS, Davis had continued to play with the Bayside Sharks, while Smith now plays at UBC.
All three South Surrey men – Roberts as a coach, Davis at lock and Smith as flanker and No. 8 – were part of Canada’s U20 team that qualified for the world tournament back in June in Houston. Canada defeated the U.S. in a two-game, aggregate score qualifier to earn the right to represent North America.
The tournament runs from Aug. 24 until Sept. 10, and Roberts said he expects the trip to be “pretty much all business.”
“We’re in a hotel for, I think, 25 nights, so it’s going to be all rugby, all the time, but I’m sure we’ll try to get the guys out to the Black Sea or try and do a bit of touristy stuff, but it’s mostly going to be full-on rugby,” he said.
In Romania, Canada will be in a pool with Fiji, Uruguay and Portugal. The top team after three pool-round games advances to finals, Roberts explained.
“We’re up against some real rugby powers, like Fiji, but I think we’ve got a shot at it,” he said. “I think we can keep up physically, but it’s just the mental part of it – being able to stay (focused) – that is the key in a long tournament like this.”
The U20 level is the last rung of the age-group levels, with the senior men’s team being the next step up. If Canada is to one day be considered to be at or near the level of the world’s top teams, the seeds will have to be sown with this team, Roberts said.
“Canada has a lot of work to do to get themselves back onto the international stage in rugby, and this is the first hurdle we have to overcome – this has to be a springboard.”
Visit us at peacearchnews.com