FRESH off a thrilling provincial championship win in the CDI Premier League, the Capilano Rugby Club is taking its show on the road.
Nearly 50 members of the club - including a team made of Div. 1 and elite league players as well as some parents, supporters, coaches and oldtimers - will head overseas to France and Spain in August. It's the first time in a quarter of a century that the club will take its game across the sea.
"I don't think any club in B.C., or very few, have been on a tour for decades," said elite team head coach Tom Larisch, the tour's organizer. "Our club hasn't been on a tour outside of North America for 25 years. The last time a team went was a group of guys went in 1987 to the first World Cup. It's been a long time."
The trip, running Aug. 16Sept. 3, is one of the final steps in an overhaul the club began following a disappointing 2010 season that saw the elite team relegated from the premier league. Larisch instituted rules to get players to come to games and practices earlier, leave later, get to know each other and develop shared goals. The plan worked as Capilano won the title this spring, their first season back in the top league. A tour will help make the club even tighter, said Larisch.
"This is one of the last major steps that I wanted to accomplish, to recreate a family (atmosphere)," he said. "Over 19 days you create a very special bond with your friends and teammates. . . . That's very important when it comes to big games. You want to play hard for your friends and your brothers and that only happens when you have good relationships. Tours are vital to create those relationships and create that family feeling. It's pretty exciting."
The tour will include three games - one in Spain and two in France - as well as a stop to watch a French pro league game featuring national team member and former Capilano player Jamie Cudmore.
"He's been playing professionally, he's probably Canada's highest paid player," said Larisch. "He's taking us out."
Despite the scarcity of tours in recent years for Capilano, hitting the road is a huge part of the culture of the sport, said Larisch.
"Most of the trophies we hand out - the New Zealand Shield for high school rugby, the Japan Cup for rep rugby - a lot of them are shields donated from tours of national teams and rep teams that have come from other countries," he said.
For such a violent game, there's actually a very respectful and collegial code of conduct associated with rugby, particularly when you're on tour, said Larisch.
"You exchange plaques, you feed the team, you have a party for them. It's one of the things that separates rugby from other sports," he said. "Even today after you play a game - unlike hockey or soccer - you host the team, you feed the team, you have a beer. You're competing against the guys on the other team, basically trying to take their heads off, but right away after you're their friend and you respect them and you share in the rugby experience.
"It's a world game. Any man, as long as they're not a complete idiot, can basically show up at any rugby club and say, 'Hey, I play rugby over here,' and they'll be accepted and they'll be given an opportunity to maybe find a place, to find a job, to be thrown right into a team. It's a very special sport that way."
The tour is being paid for by the players and supporters and to help with the costs Capilano will be holding a fundraiser at the Club Friday, July 20 starting at 7 p.m. Food, drink, a silent auction and raffle prizes will be part of the evening. For more information call Charlie Jones at 604-818-8020.