Americas Rugby Championship reaches climax

(IRB.COM) Thursday 15 October 2009

 Americas Rugby Championship reaches climax
The Americas Rugby Championship fills a gap between domestic and international rugby

It is the culmination of seven weeks of rugby action, spanning from British Columbia to Newfoundland in Canada and on to Denver in Colorado.

The inaugural Americas Rugby Championship saw the four teams that made up the regionally based Canadian division fight their way down to two - the BC Bears and Ontario Blues - with the Bears edging a tight semi final to earn the right to take on the Argentina Jaguars in the title decider at Fletcher's Fields in Markham.

The Argentina Jaguars entered the competition at the semi final stage and had a more comfortable victory, overcoming the USA Selects side in chilly Denver a week ago with an authoritative 57-10 scoreline.

The idea of the competition, which is sponsored wholly by the International Rugby Board, is to provide a stepping stone for players looking to play for their country, but not quite ready for the top tier of play.

The BC Bears, who went through the Canadian round robin undefeated, including a narrow 12-8 victory over Ontario Blues in last weekend's semi final in Victoria, are under no illusions about how tough the game against Argentina Jaguars will be.

"Argentina Jaguars' forwards are extremely tough and their backs, most having a background in soccer, are very skilled and tend to kick a lot," offered Bears and Canada scrum half Ed Fairhurst. "We really need to play our own game though. It's good we got the win last week, but we need to concentrate on what got us here."

Something to prove

The Blues, who on paper might have had a disappointing season with a 1-2 record before going into the Canadian final, have a real chance to finish on a high upset the USA Selects squad, which has been together for only a couple of weeks.

By contrast the Blues have been training together since February and that kind of cohesiveness can be a massive advantage in a sport like rugby according to coach Les Gilson.

"We know that playing a national side like the US is a huge challenge," said Gilson. "But we have been making great strides with our young team, and this is another great opportunity for us in a fantastic competition."

Gilson's counterpart Paul Keeler has made the most of his team's time together, but is under no illusions as to what the Ontario Blues bring to the third place play-off encounter.

"We know we can't take Ontario lightly," admitted Keeler. "They always have a physical and determined side of players, and the fact that they are a provincial side may only add to their determination. But, I am confident in the side we've chosen and our team is definitely eager to get out there and prove itself."