For Canadians, the road to the Rugby World Cup goes through Victoria.
And in terms of domestic competition, Saturday’s CDI Premier League semifinal tilt between the Castaway-Wanderers and the UVic Vikes is as good as it gets. Kick off is 2:45 p.m. at Windsor Park.
In lineup for CW will be Chauncey O’Toole, a forward who started the 2010-11 season playing professionally in Europe.
“It didn’t work out how I would have liked. I would’ve liked to stay (there a little longer), but it’s great coming back to play with CW the way they’re going,” O’Toole said.
Following his junior hockey career with the Miramichi Timberwolves, O’Toole turned to rugby, and left Belle Isle, N.B. for Oak Bay.
He arrived for the 2007-08 season with CW. International play kept him away for the 2010-11 season until CW’s 30-7 win over James Bay on April 9.
“It’s a great team to come into. They’re playing with discipline, playing like they want a championship.”
O’Toole missed the bulk of the season playing on Canada’s tour of Europe in November and, subsequently with the national sevens team.
When he arrived four years ago, the 6-foot-1 O’Toole was a bit small to be considered as a national calibre forward. But, with the help of Rugby Canada’s training program, he’s since muscled up to 235 pounds. Yet he possesses the power and speed to go with it, making him an ideal back rower, ready to dash off the back of the scrum and into an unsuspecting opposition.
In fact, O’Toole’s skill set was strong enough to earn him plenty of appearances with Canada’s rugby sevens and 15s teams over the past couple of years and eventually earned him notice with the Glasgow Warriors of Europe’s Magners League. He joined the Warriors in September for the preseason and made a brief appearance in October. But his time there came to an end.
Still, O’Toole is one of many players in the mix to make Canada’s 30 man roster at the Rugby World Cup in September.
With Glasgow, O’Toole trained alongside plenty of European nationals as well as two Canadians, DTH van der Merwe (James Bay) and Kevin Tkachuk (CW).
Now that he’s back, O’Toole is training alongside national team veterans and prospects alike on CW: Ciaran Hearn, Frank Walsh, Scott Franklin, Ander Monro and Hubert Buydens.
There are just as many national players on UVic, including captain Pat Riordan.
With the world cup on the horizon, O’Toole said expectations have added a new dimension to playing in the B.C. Rugby Union season.
“It bolsters the squads and it’s added to the excitement.”
Vikes will be at full value
CW won 48-15 over UVic in the most recent meeting of the two teams at Windsor Park. However, the Vikes were without their national team players Sean Duke, Phil Mack, Keaton Styles, Beau Parker and Nathan Hirayama. UVic’s tight five are also very strong. Andrew Tiedemann, Pat Riordan, Toby Peyton, Brett Beukeboom and Toni Wodzicki were there for UVic’s 2010 championship run.
CW’s key offensive contributor this year has been veteran Matt Buckley, who is quietly one of the best CDI Premier League players year in and year out.
Ceili’s Cup League semifinals
In the Ceili’s Cup League (men’s first division) the top-seeded UVic Norsemen host James Bay while second-seeded Burnaby Lake host the Castaway-Wanderers, 1 p.m. Saturday.