Rugby on the cusp of total elimination

Robin
Robin Short
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The 2009 P.E.I. Games mark the end of rugby in the Canada Summer Games program, although there's hope the sport could reemerge in 2013, albeit a scaled down version if rugby sevens is accepted as an Olympic sport.

Rugby has been a Canada Games staple since 1993, and through those four Summer Games, Newfoundland has won two bronze medals. But it was given the heave-ho following these Games - the chief reason being it isn't an Olympic sport.

Summerside, P.E.I. -

The 2009 P.E.I. Games mark the end of rugby in the Canada Summer Games program, although there's hope the sport could reemerge in 2013, albeit a scaled down version if rugby sevens is accepted as an Olympic sport.

Rugby has been a Canada Games staple since 1993, and through those four Summer Games, Newfoundland has won two bronze medals. But it was given the heave-ho following these Games - the chief reason being it isn't an Olympic sport.

That may change, considering rugby has a good shot at gaining Olympic status in 2016. But it won't be the traditional 15-a-side game, but rather seven players on each squad on the field.

The seven-a-side game is all about offence, and built around speed. It's the same as 15s in terms of technical rucks and scrums, but most players are speedsters, even the big guys.

Games are also much quicker, with seven-minute halves.

That's good news to Newfoundland coach Pat Parfrey, the former Canadian national team mentor who has guided every Newfoundland Canada Games rugby team since '93.

He said the decision to rid rugby of its spot in the Canada Games was a "disgraceful one," given the volume of people playing the sport.

He acknowledges sevens is a "different type" of game, but adds it's a more exciting brand.

"We'll end up with sevens in the Olympics and the Canada Games with sevens and that will bring more talent to the game which will help the 15s game as well, because that game isn't going away," he said.

"The World Cup is the third biggest competition in the world (behind the Olympics and World Cup of Soccer)."

But while it looks like rugby sevens is headed for the Olympics, there's still a question mark hanging over the Canada Games. Rugby, for certain, is out of the 2013 Sherbrooke, Que. Games, which Parfrey said is gravely disappointing to the Newfoundland Rugby Union, "and for rugby across the country."

It's especially disappointing for Newfoundland as rugby is usually a contender for a medal every Games.

But Parfrey doesn't intend to fold the tent now that the showroom team for youth rugby will be dismantled. The system remains in place with underage teams streaming up to The Rock senior team. And his next project will be to develop a national championship under-20 team.

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland Canada Games, Newfoundland Rugby Union

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Summerside, P.E.I. Canada Sherbrooke, Que

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