Churchill Cup coming to Kingston

International rugby competition expected to boost sport’s popularity in Canada

On June 11, Kingston will host two international rugby matches as part of the fifth annual Churchill Cup. The Scotland A team will be facing Argentina at 4:35pm, and the Irish A side will kick off against the U.S. in the second game of Kingston’s double-header at 7:05pm.

Tournaments like this are partially responsible for creating Canada’s ever-growing rugby following, said Doug Crosse, Rugby Canada’s communications manager.

There are currently 20,000 rugby players registered in Canada, a five to eight per cent growth since 2003, when the Churchill Cup began.

Crosse said he thinks rugby has the potential to challenge Canada’s top sports for popularity.

“We need a dramatic display by one of our top teams,” Crosse said. “More than anything else, Canadians like winners. If we can enjoy some success on the field and get the resulting media attention, the rest will follow.”

Charron and Crosse agree on the value of holding the games in Kingston, as there is little competition from other sports and rugby attracts potential fans of all ages.

“We’ve enjoyed more success in small marketplaces,” said Crosse. “In Kingston, we’re going to be the main show that evening. We have 1,200 tickets pre-sold in Kingston, which is very good. We’re traditionally a big walk-up sport.”

Al Charron, who has played 80 times for Team Canada and was voted BBC West Rugby Player of the Year in 1999, agrees that this tournament could improve rugby’s profile in Canada.

“People come in with false impressions,” he said. “But when you see professionals playing international level rugby, it builds popularity. It’s hitting at the people who don’t know rugby.”

Charron, who is active in promoting rugby in Canada, sees the Churchill Cup as a way to attract other high level rugby matches to Canada.

“We want more competition,” he said. “[If] more teams come to play, hopefully we hit more tournaments, more attractions, more sponsors, even TV coverage. It expands the game.”

Charron said the organizers of the Churchill Cup, in conjunction with Rugby Canada and the Kingston Panthers will be running a youth clinic from 5 to 7pm on Tuesday, June 10.

“Getting any kids interested in rugby is an opportunity to get more people to see what rugby’s about. It’ll introduce new kids to the game and up the level of expertise and interest in those already involved. Watching live international rugby is just the thing to get that going.”

The Churchill Cup has grown significantly since its creation, when it was just Canada, the United States and the England Saxons competing. Up to now, the Churchill Cup has also featured Ireland, Argentina, Scotland, the British and Irish Lions and the New Zealand Maori, but has only been won by the England Saxons and the New Zealand Maori.

As for a prediction for the final, Charron faced facts.

“I’d love to see Canada [win it] but I don’t think that’ll be the case” he said. “I would say it’ll be between Argentina and England. But it doesn’t really matter who wins. [Canada is] playing in international tournaments and that’s all that matters.”

—With files from
Andrew Bucholtz

Kingston Game Info

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
•Scotland A vs Argentina - 4:35pm
•Ireland A vs USA - 7:05pm

Richardson Stadium Admission
•East Stand General - $15
•East Stand 14-or-under - $5
•West Stand Gold - $30 (includes reserved seating)
•West Stand other - $20 (includes reserved seating)

Tickets available at: ticketmaster.ca or 613.533.2500

—Source: barclayschurchillcuprugby.com

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