Courtesy of Dan Kinvig - Abbotsford News
Published: December 18, 2009 2:00 PM

Canada U-17 Players 2009Rugby in Abbotsford is alive and well. If you’re looking for proof, let us submit Exhibit A – the roster for Canada’s under-17 boys rugby team. When the national U17 program convened its selection camp at Shawnigan Lake last month, almost 10 per cent of the 63-strong list of invited players hailed from Abbotsford.

Of the six local hopefuls, five of them – Christian Styles, Tyler Barons, Ryan March, Justin Douglas and Jorden Best – were named to the 27-member Team Canada lineup which will travel to Santa Barbara, Calif. for a series of fixtures against the United States’ high school All-Americans between Christmas and New Year’s. Additionally, a sixth Abby player, Brody Quirk, has been picked for a national development team which will tour B.C. in February.

For the local ruggers, the opportunity to wear the maple leaf is a huge thrill. Even the chance to wear Team Canada practice gear during an intra-squad game at the selection camp last month was a surreal moment, Barons said.

“Just putting those jerseys on, I got a huge rush out of it,” he enthused.

“Representing Canada is the type of thing that you dream about doing, but you don’t really expect to get there,” Styles agreed. “But once you get there, it’s amazing.”

Styles, Barons and Quirk are students at Yale Secondary, while March, Douglas and Best attend Robert Bateman Secondary.

The up-and-comers agreed that the Abbotsford-centric composition of the U17 national team is a symptom of the strong rugby culture in the community.

“You never really see an Abby (club) team that’s low in the standings,” Best noted. “People are starting younger in rugby, and the coaching is good here.”

The presence of Best and Douglas on the national team is particularly fascinating. At 15 years old, both players were battling athletes a year older for inclusion on the squad.

“You kind of have it in your head that you’re a younger guy, and I wouldn’t have been too shocked not to make the team,” Best said. “But you’re playing with such a good group of guys, and you learn with them.”