Rugby rookies selected for Team Canada

Men’s rugby Canada U-20 selections for tournament in Moscow caps spectacular year for Gaels rookies

Gaels’ scrum-half Liam Underwood scored 42 points during the men’s rugby season this year and was selected for the Canadian U-20 team.
Gaels’ scrum-half Liam Underwood scored 42 points during the men’s rugby season this year and was selected for the Canadian U-20 team.
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Defenceman Stephane Chabot (left) and forward Payton Liske were selected to the OUA All-Rookie team this season.
Defenceman Stephane Chabot (left) and forward Payton Liske were selected to the OUA All-Rookie team this season.
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Men’s rugby scrum-half Liam Underwood and flanker Matt Kelly have been selected to represent Canada’s under-20 rugby team at the Junior World Trophy this May and June in Moscow, Russia.

Men’s rugby head coach Peter Huigenbos said Underwood and Kelly weren’t automatic picks for the Rugby Canada selection committee.

“They weren’t involved in the initial trials for the team, but their impressive performances for team Ontario at the Canada Summer Games as well as their strong play for Queen’s in the OUA forced them into consideration for the U-20 camps,” he said. “Once they got there, they seized the opportunity and took advantage.”

Huigenbos, who was Team Canada’s video coach for the 2007 Churchill Cup and during last year’s tour of Europe, said he had very little influence on the selections.

“If I get asked the question I’ll answer it honestly and in this case I was pleased to report to Rugby Canada that Liam and Matt were playing hard, training well and were committed to their strength-work in the weight room,” he said. “Any coach’s involvement is minimal. It’s the players putting their hands up through their play and hard work that brings the rewards.”

Huigenbos said winger Chris Barrett played for Canada in Japan last year and came back to score 40 points in the OUA this season, good for seventh in the province.

“[Barrett] competed and started for Canada’s U-20 team in the 2009 Championships and he was the most devastating backline player in the OUA last year,” he said. “He played a prominent role in three out of our four tries in [this season’s OUA] final and he gained that confidence by playing at the elite level with Canada U-20.”

The announcement comes as multiple Gaels rookies are being recognized for their play this season. Men’s hockey rookies Stephane Chabot, Payton Liske and Jordan Mirwaldt were all named to the OUA All-Rookie team. Rookie goaltender Steele De Fazio helped the Gaels salvage their season and take the Carleton Ravens into double-overtime in games one and three of the OUA quarter-final.

Women’s hockey’s rookie goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher was named to the CIS All-Rookie team and was joined by forward Morgan McHaffie on the OUA All-Rookie team. Rookie Erin Roberts helped the women’s squash team to their OUA banner this season and was named OUA Rookie of the Year. First-year wrestler Matt Di Staulo won bronze at the OUA championships and came in seventh at the CIS championships in Calgary. In women’s soccer, striker Riley Filion was named the OUA East Rookie of the Year while defender Victoria Gonzalez-Milroy was named an OUA Second-Team All-Star.

Underwood said his decision to come to Queen’s was influenced by the promise of new facilities, but conversations with Huigenbos, football head coach Pat Sheahan and trips to Kingston to visit his sister were the deciding factors.

“I knew they were building a new gym and athletic facility so it definitely helped a bit in the long run,” he said.

Men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson said this year was his strongest rookie class yet after five years with the program.

“It was a lot of hard work,” he said. “In order to get the likes of Payton Liske, Jordan Mirwaldt and Stephane Chabot, to name a few, it took the program to start winning. The school is fantastic and speaks for itself academically but you want a strong program, especially when it comes to hockey, to come into. You want to be winning. All the credit goes to the guys who came before them, they worked really hard at building a strong program and it became an easy sell for me this year. ... I think we had the top recruiting class in the country.”

Gibson said the Queen’s Centre is a large part of his campus tour of potential recruits.

“It’s definitely the first thing I show recruits when they come into town to see Queen’s. Unfortunately our rink is off-campus, but it’s a fantastic tool to show them the gym and the facilities they’ll be using to train in.”

Huigenbos, who coached this year’s men’s rugby team to a perfect 8-0 regular season and took them to their first Turner Trophy since 2001, said the well-publicized accomplishments of Queen’s teams over the past few years do more to encourage recruitment than the Queen’s Centre ever could.

“We’ve got a men’s rugby team and a men’s football team that have lost one regular season game in two seasons with the old gym equipment, so I tell any recruit that comes in that it doesn’t matter how shiny the equipment is; if you don’t put the work in, you’re not going to get the results.”

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