Men’s league ambitions

Gaels rugby players benefit from provincial team experience

Dan Moor (left) passed on the Queen’s rugby captaincy to Jacob Rumball, his teammate with the Ontario Blues.
Dan Moor (left) passed on the Queen’s rugby captaincy to Jacob Rumball, his teammate with the Ontario Blues.
Liam Underwood’s on-field sucess has continued on from Queen’s and the Ontario Blues to a spot on Canada’s men’s rugby team.
Liam Underwood’s on-field sucess has continued on from Queen’s and the Ontario Blues to a spot on Canada’s men’s rugby team.

Jacob Rumball’s tenure with the Ontario Blues has given him a leg up on the competition.

The Queen’s men’s rugby captain is one of several current or former Gaels presently competing with the Blues, Ontario’s senior provincial team. Alumni Dan Moor and Liam Underwood are on the squad, as is Rumball’s brother and Queen’s teammate Lucas.

For Rumball, senior-level rugby is an opportunity to practice with and compete against older players with more strength and experience.

“You can compare yourself to guys who are doing this professionally,” he said.

The Blues compete against other Canadian provincial clubs, as well as American and international opponents.On Saturday, they’ll be taking on the NCAA All-Americans, an under-23 collegiate all-star team, in Boston.

Roughly half of the Blues’ roster hails from university teams. The other half is made up of young professionals and players sponsored at the provincial or national level.

The Blues don’t spend as much time together on or off the field as a university squad. Despite this, players bond quickly over their shared ambition to field a winning team.

“There’s a standard of play that comes up from the guys,” Rumball said. “There’s a lot of information sharing and competitiveness.”

While there are benefits that come with playing for the team, there are a few drawbacks as well. The most difficult time for the Blues’ student contingent is September, when the OUA and Blues’ seasons overlap.

Rumball said he’s missed about six Queen’s games over his four-year university career to play with the Blues.

“The positive is that awesome level of competition,” he said. “The negative is you’re logging a lot of hours on the road.”

Dan Moor, Rumball’s predecessor as Gaels captain, is a three-year veteran of the Blues and also dealt with the overlapping rugby seasons.

Moor was absent from Queen’s Fauxcoming weekend game against Western in 2012. Instead, he started for the Blues in a match against the Newfoundland Rock.

“It was tough, but playing with the Blues is a big opportunity,” Moor said.

Despite the time commitment required to play for both Queen’s and the Blues, Moor said balancing two teams and schoolwork never fazed him.

“I was willing to give up certain things. I took my rugby seriously.

“If it interests you, you just kind of get on with it,” he said. “I never saw it as a big sacrifice.”

Having played with the older Rumball brother for much of his time at Queen’s, Moor has witnessed Jacob’s rise to captaincy and predicts good things for Lucas as well.

Lucas is heading into his second season with Queen’s, and after playing in the Blues’ development program for several years, he’s poised to make an impact with the Gaels in September.

“Wow, what a talent,” Moor said. “He is fearless out there — very committed to getting better.”

For the summer, Lucas and company will be training under Blues head coach Chris Silverthorn.

Silverthorn has been with the team for four years after previously working with the under-19 Canadian roster. He’s seen several Queen’s alumni go through the system in that time.

The Gaels have won three of the last five OUA championships under former head coach Peter Huigenbos. Silverthorn said the reason why is clear.

“Liam Underwood may be the best fly half in Canada. Moor is Mr. Consistency. Jacob is a great team guy and Lucas has been fantastic,” Silverthorn said.

“Queen’s is probably the strongest school program in the country,” he added. “The players have really bought into coach Huigenbos’ system."

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