- The 16th leg of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour spanned Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa as thousands of fans welcomed the Webb Ellis Cup to Canada
- The Honourable Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Central and Minister of Environment and Climate Change, joined the tour and spoke of the power of sport
- World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees and former captains Al Charron and Gareth Rees, along with Canada coach Kingsley Jones, all welcomed the Webb Ellis Cup
- Young players were inspired by the presence of rugby’s most coveted silverware as rugby participation continues to climb with a 15 per cent growth in registered players since 2017
- Canada will face New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia at Rugby World Cup 2019
Canada welcomed the Webb Ellis Cup with open arms last week as the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan continues to gather pace.
School children, Canadian rugby royalty and rugby-loving government ministers joined the celebrations during a busy schedule that spanned Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto and the capital Ottawa with the trophy’s popularity reflecting the 15 per cent growth in registered players since 2017.
Canada are in Pool B at Asia’s first Rugby World Cup, lining-up alongside champions New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia. They have competed at every Rugby World Cup to date.
Rounding off the tour in the capital, The Honourable Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Central, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and daughter of former Canada international Dr John McKenna, welcomed the Webb Ellis Cup to Ottawa University.
Proudly displayed in the Sports Dome, the Webb Ellis Cup was pitch-side at a rugby training session with hundreds of local rugby players, including junior and senior clubs, Ottawa’s Mixed Abilities Rugby Club and members of the Ottawa Wolves RFC, who will be hosting the 2020 Bingham Cup – the international gay rugby tournament and world’s largest amateur rugby union event.
Minister McKenna said: “Rugby World Cup 2019 is going to be amazing and it is great to see Canada doing so well having qualified to compete alongside the best 20 nations in Japan later this year.
“Sport is so important and one of the reasons we are such big promoters of sport in Canada is its inclusivity - everyone can take part and be involved and that is so important. Sport is a great opportunity for kids to get active and I am delighted to see so many taking part today.
“It is great to celebrate sport and celebrate excellence in sport. I was a competitive swimmer and it did everything for my life - learning the importance of being part of a team and the importance of working hard while also having a lot of fun - values that are all a part of rugby. It is really awesome to have the Rugby World Cup trophy here in Ottawa for the first time.”
While in Ottawa, the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour was also welcomed by Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, and visited Parliament Hill where the Webb Ellis Cup was one of the first VIP visitors to the new House of Commons.
The tour launched in Victoria earlier in the week, welcomed by British Columbia Premier John Horgan who took part in a rugby training session with local children on the lawns of the Parliamentary building. From there the Webb Ellis Cup visited the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre and Westhills Stadium, the home of Rugby Canada men’s and women’s teams, in Langford. Canada coach Kingsley Jones, along with a host of former Canada captains including Rees, Mark Wyatt and Pat Riordan, hosted a reception for local rugby fans at Bear Mountain.
Jones said: “Canada has a steep tradition of rugby and has been part of Rugby World Cup since it began in 1987, so we are delighted to welcome the Webb Ellis Cup to Langford where the team are based, as part of the Trophy Tour. It’s been a really big 12 months for Canada rugby – missing out on qualification to a very strong Uruguay side – but it was a really positive outcome for us at the repechage with three really strong performances.
“We don’t just want to take part at Rugby World Cup 2019, we have really strong opponents, but we are hoping to make an impact and we are working hard in preparation. We know Japan is a nation that loves sport and that they are passionate about their rugby so we expect this to be a really unique and enjoyable tournament for players and fans alike.”
In Vancouver, more than100 local children took to Hillcrest Park for a rugby training session with BC Rugby alongside the Webb Ellis Cup. Children as young as three joined in, showing rugby is for all ages, and excitement was heightened when the local players were recipients of a Get Into Rugby kit drop from Rugby World Cup 2019 Worldwide Partner DHL.
The stop in Canada was also supported by Worldwide Partner Heineken, who gave local rugby fans the chance to get up close with the Webb Ellis Cup with activities in Vancouver and Toronto, where hundreds of fans queued to take selfies and start their Rugby World Cup 2019 countdown.
While in Toronto the Trophy Tour was also welcomed by the Consul-General of Japan in Toronto, Ms Takako Ito. A celebration of rugby and of Japan 2019 took place at the residence where guests included ambassadors from many of the competing nations, representatives of Rugby Canada and the wider rugby community.
Reflecting on the tour in Canada, Chairman of Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors Tim Powers said: “We are thrilled to see the enthusiastic response to the Webb Ellis Cup in four cities across the country, and we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to World Rugby for sharing this iconic trophy with our fans, supporters and partners of the game here in Canada. We are grateful for the support from Canada's passionate rugby community and know that it will serve as a strong motivator for our players as they take on Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Namibia in Japan this year.
“Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport and the third largest sporting event in the world. Canada has attended every tournament dating back to 1987, including a quarter-final appearance in 1991, and we are committed to ensuring that we build on that legacy for future generations of players in Canada. Over the last two years we’ve seen a growth of over 15 per cent in registered members in Canada, with a major focus on grassroots and development rugby, and in a Rugby World Cup year we hope to see this grow even further as the nation gets behind the team and the game at large.”
The next stop on the Trophy Tour will be South America as the Webb Ellis Cup visists Brazil, Chile and Argentina before embarking on a 100-day tour of Japan before the start of the tournament on 20 September. To view the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour schedule, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/trophy-tour.
Demand for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets has been unprecedented with more than five million ticket applications received to date. Fans will have the opportunity to secure their place at Japan 2019 when the next wave of ticket inventory becomes available on Saturday 18 May at 18:00 Japan Standard Time (JST) via www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets. For more details on Rugby World Cup 2019, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com.