A Canadian pipeline

Queen’s rugby making their mark on the national stage

Rumball (center) playing with Rugby Canada against Japan.
Rumball (center) playing with Rugby Canada against Japan.
Supplied by Derek Stevens

Over the past few seasons, Queen’s has become one of the nation’s top rugby schools and it’s been evident in the influx of Queen’s talent going on to play for national teams.

This summer Queen’s had four players from both the men’s and women’s programs represent Canada in national competitions with Rugby Canada.

Take Lucas Rumball for example, who lead the Gaels to a fourth straight OUA championship as their captain and was named the OUA’s Most Valuable Player last season. 

This summer, Rumball was the youngest of the 15 players selected to Mark Ascombe’s national team roster for the Rugby Canada “Summer Series” — a month-long tournament across Canadian cities against Japan, Russia and Italy. 

Returning to the Gaels for his fourth season, however, Rumball has told his teammates that he’s stepping down as their captain for the 2016 season. 

Rumball explained his decision comes from his conflicting schedules with the various teams he plays with. 

“To fill a leadership role in the sense of captaincy, you really have to be there for the boys constantly, you just have to be there,” Rumball said.  “You can’t really be away and be the captain at the same time, so I decided to step down.” 

However, Rumball doesn’t think that his decision to step down will have a significant impact on his own performance or the performance of the team. 

“I’m always trying to help the boys improve and you don’t have to be the captain to be a leader on the field so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.” 

In terms of his future, Rumball has his sights set high. “I hope to start getting selected for tours regularly and I actually hope to play professionally at some point.”

Rumball isn’t the only player on the Queen’s men’s team to be noticed by Rugby Canada. Winger Kanoia Lloyd spent his August as part of Rugby Canada’s “A” team, travelling to Northern Ireland to play against European competition.

This recent trend stretches beyond the men’s team.

Another Queen’s rugby player to represent Canada was Emma Chown. In July, Chown was one of 12 university students to represent Canada at the Rugby sevens tournament at the Summer Universiade Games in Wales. 

Erin Geddes, the captain of the women’s rugby team, and prop McKinley Hunt have also represented Canada this summer. 

After winning gold with five other Gaels as part of the U20 Ontario Storm team — the provincial rugby team that plays in the under-20 women’s Canadian Rugby Championships — Geddes and Hunt were chosen to play on the U20 national team that traveled to the United Kingdom in August.

Erin Geddies (top) and McKinley Hunt (bottom) represented Rugby Canada in the United Kingdom this summer. Supplied by Ian Edge.

For Geddes, the experience abroad helped her grow as a player and she contributed her success with the national team to the  people she shared the experience with. 

“I’ve never had a coach who was so passionate about the sport  and it just made it that much more enjoyable for everyone,”  Geddes said. 

Like Rumball, Geddes also acknowledges the difficulty of  balancing the responsibilities of playing for multiple teams and  being a student. 

“I think you need to be a special type of person to be able to do  it,” Geddes said. “Not only is your academic life becoming more  and more difficult, but rugby life too.”

While Geddes has enjoyed successes in her summers away from  the Gaels, she credits her time at Queen’s for her achievements. 

“Coming to Queen’s really enhanced my passion for rugby and it  made it so much easier to put in the extra work, put in the extra  time to get to the level that I did.”

Geddes also finds that each player taking the summer to play  with other teams returns to the Gaels with a new set of skills. 

“Not all of us play around Kingston so when players go back to  their club teams, or play for their province or even for Canada,  you have the opportunity to learn so much more and then take  what you’ve learned and bring it back to make Queen’s better.”

Rugby Canada isn’t only taking players from the Gaels, but some are even coming back.

Nadia Popov — a  powerhouse centre — is returning to the women’s team this season after a three-year hiatus she took to pursue a career with the Canadian Sevens team. 

The head coach of the women’s team, Beth Barz, is confident that the relationship between the Gaels and Team Canada will continue to be positive for both teams. 

“Our goal is to provide Gaels athletes with the opportunities to learn and grow into players at the national level,” Barz said. “There is nothing negative about having the opportunity to play for your country.” 

Down the road, Barz hopes to build on that relationship as well.

“It would be helpful to have a stronger relationship with Rugby Canada in terms of player development and big picture thinking as we move forward together as communication on these areas can sometimes be lacking,” she said.

Overall, the connection between the national team and the Gaels is important for the success of both teams. 

“Success breeds success,” Barz said.

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