The fall season of the Vancouver Island Rugby Union has started but the buzz among locals is Canada’s opening match against Tonga at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
On Wednesday (Sept. 14), Canada and Tonga meet at 10 p.m. (PST) in Whangarei on TSN.
Earlier this week a dozen members of the Canadian squad visited a youth school, the Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa, where students aged nine to 14 performed a local haka for the players before engaging in a game of touch rugby.
Hopefully the experience will help assimilate the Canadians into New Zealand’s rugby-steeped culture. During their round robin play the Maple Leafs will twice be greeted with a pre-game war dance, the Sipi Tau, when they face Tonga and the haka when they face New Zealand on Oct. 10.
Canada is currently coming off two weeks of training camp in Australia where they lost to a very strong Australia Barbarians team 38-14 in front of 5,000 fans. Canada then defeated the Queensland XV in a controlled scrimmage, 33-14.
James Bay’s DTH van der Merwe scored one of Canada’s two tries against the Barbarians, setting up former UVic Vike Phil Mackenzie for the other.
Locally, the Island’s first division starts Saturday (Sept. 10) with Port Alberni versus the UVic Jutes, 11:30 a.m., at Wallace Field, and Velox against the UVic Norsemen, 1 p.m. at Wallace Field.
Also on Saturday, James Bay hosts the Castaway-Wanderers first division club at 1 p.m. at MacDonald Park.
The Island men’s elite division opens on Sept. 17 with UVic at CW and James Bay at Velox.