KAMLOOPS --- Last week Thompson Rivers University announced it was adding a new sport to its athletic stable ---- womens 7's rugby --- and soon they will be thrust into the heat of competition.
"Luckily our group of girls is rugby ready" says WolfPack head coach Derek Pue, "They play club rugby with the Kamloops Rugby Club, a bunch of them played 7's over the summer --- so we're not teaching anybody the game."
The new 7's squad is part of a pilot program partnership, between Canada West, Rugby Canada, and B2Ten, meant to raise the profile of the sport. and potentially identify athletes for the national team talent pool.
"Having a bronze medal at the Olympics is a huge boost." says Pue, "Girls who might not have been exposed to rugby 7's, turned on T.V. and watched our girls win a medal. They look at the sport they just played for fun at school and realize they could go on, they could get university tuition paid, they could go on and play for the national team and hopefully go to the Olympics."
For many of the players, this new team is an opportunity to help build this program from the ground floor.
WolfPack player Abigail Winstone says "I really like being on the team --- you have this group of people that you get to hang out with, bond with, travel with and become a close group of friends, and a family with."
Abigail jumped at the opportunity to play university rugby. She grew up around the game, but focused on basketball in high school. She says the physical aspect of the sport is one of her favourite parts of taking to the pitch.
"It's fun to kind of take a good hit now and then and have a good hit."
For head coach Derek Pue, he believes he'll be able to recruit close to home, based on some of the athletes he's seen in the B.C. interior.
"Going all the way up to Prince George, Terrace even, out to Prince Rupert --- there are top level athletes up there playiing rugby, but they're not getting a shot." says Pue. "There are athletes out here, they just need to get recognized -- and that's what we're going to do. We're going to go up the interior corridor and say you don't have to go to the lower mainland or Victoria to get that exposure. You can be a top level athlete coming out of the interior."
But even with those high end athletes on the squad, Pue knows his team will be in tough against some of the top teams in Canada West competition.
"We're going to be in deep --- the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, UBC all have very established programs --- so we don't really have a week team to play against."
The WolfPack rugby 7's will play in two pilot program tournaments in February at Fraser Valley and Victoria.
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