Heavy Island, MLR flavor to the Canadian rugby squad for Tuneups versus Wales, England

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A constant refrain in North American rugby history has been the need for a domestic professional league. That has now arrived in the form of major league rugby and is having an effect.

25 of the 30 players, including five of the eight Islanders nominated for the Canadian Tests against England and Wales next month, are from MLR teams. Quinn Ngawati from Victoria plays for Rugby United New York, Doug Fraser from Ladysmith for Old Glory DC from Washington, Lachlan Kratz from Victoria for NOLA Gold from New Orleans, UVic Vikes-grad and CW product Jake Ilnicki for the Seattle Seawolves and Josh Larson from Nanaimo captains the New England Free Jacks.

Ben LeSage and former UVic Vikes player Lucas Rumball of the Toronto Arrows and Matt Heaton of Rugby ATL of Atlanta will lead Canada as captains.

“The MLR offers our players the opportunity to train and play consistently at a high level,” said Canada’s head coach Kingsley Jones from Sooke.

Other islanders selected are Foster Dewitt from Courtenay and Isaac Oslen from Victoria, both from the Rugby Canada National Development Academy in Langford. The only overseas professional is Will Percillier from Victoria from the Stade Francais.

Ngawati, Dewitt, Kratz and Olsen are among the eleven selected players without a cap. No players on the Langford-based Canadian sevens have been selected as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“We are very excited to be assembling for the first time since our high-performance camp last November,” said Jones.

“Coordinating the logistics of bringing these players together in a COVID world has been a daunting undertaking, but we feel privileged and humble to have the opportunity to play these critical World Cup qualifying pre-games.”

Regional qualifications for the 2023 World Cup in France will begin in autumn.

The two Canadian Tests in Great Britain are against world powers and both on sacred rugby grounds – against Wales on July 3 at the Principality (formerly Millennium) Stadium in Cardiff and against England in Twickenham on July 10. It will be the first games for Canada since the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

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