Men’s rugby is set to kick off this weekend at Queen’s, however it won’t be the OUA-champion Gaels taking the pitch. Richardson Stadium will play host to the Canada Wolverines as they compete against the U.S.A Tomahawks in the first annual Colonial Cup Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Wolverines are Canada’s national team in the recently formed Canada Rugby League (CRL). The league, not to be confused with Rugby Union (as played by the Gaels), is played with two less players on the pitch and does not have mauls, rucks or line outs, making for a quicker, faster-paced game.
Eric Perez, Director of Development for the CRL, said that the Rugby League game promises to be very entertaining for fans.
“This is a game that has non-stop action,” Perez said. “It’s one of the fastest and toughest team sports.”
After sending representatives to the American National Rugby League’s (AMNRL) War at the Shore tournament last month, the Wolverines will play for the first time as a team on home soil at the Colonial Cup.
“It’s going to be an annual one-game challenge between the Canadian and U.S national teams,” Perez said. “We picked Kingston as it was one of the first capitals [of Canada] and it was home to the first Prime Minister. It’s got a beautiful grass pitch, which is rare these days. We also really want to focus this on the Queen’s students and make this a real big student event every year.”
Since joining the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) earlier this year, Perez has worked to put together a strong team to represent Canada.
“Rugby League is new to Canada, so we’ve got most of our players from the top Rugby Union clubs,” he said. “We’ve selected players with Rugby League skill sets who are playing at the highest level of Rugby Union. We also have ex-patriot Australians, who are now Canadians, who grew up playing Rugby League.”
Despite his best efforts, Perez said he understands that it will take time for the Wolverines to become a powerhouse on the international Rugby League scene.
“The Americans have had a League for 15 years and they’re ranked thirteenth in the world,” he said. “They have a semi-pro circuit. We’re the underdogs in this game. They’ve got a lot of experience on their team, so it’ll be a tough one.”
The Colonial Cup will be used to launch the Wolverines in to more international competitions later in the year.
“This is the first of many; we’re already scheduled to play in the Atlantic Cup later in the year, which is a tournament against Jamaica and the U.S.A.”
As the official representatives of Canada, the Canada Wolverines are now looking to expand Rugby League at home by creating a domestic league and participating in tournaments around the world.
“As we’ve been accepted into the [RLIF], we have a lot of resources available to us now that would not have been there if we had not become a proper governing body,” he said. “We have a lot of fixtures planned for next year including the Caribana Cup against Jamaica … [And] we’ve got a couple of Pacific Rim tournaments that we’re planning on entering.”
With a promising future ahead, it will all start for the Wolverines this weekend.
“I really want the Queen’s students to understand that we chose Queen’s because of their enthusiasm,” he said. “There wouldn’t be a better Canada crowd than at Queen’s. We want everyone cheering for Canada, everyone wearing red and we want to come back year after year, getting bigger and bigger.”
The Canada Wolverines will kick off the Colonial Cup at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Richardson Stadium. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Customer Service Desk at the ARC.
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