File:Canada Rugby team.jpg
Union Rugby Canada
First International
Japan 9 - 8 Canada
(31 January, 1932)
Largest win
Namibia 11 - 72 Canada
(14 October, 1999)
Worst defeat
England 70 - 0 Canada
(13 November, 2004)
World Cup
Appearances 5 (First in 1987)
Best result Quarter Finals, 1991

The Canadian national rugby union team (also known as the "Canucks") compete in the Churchill Cup, the Super Powers Cup and the Rugby Union World Cup.

The sheer size of Canada means that talent is scattered across the country making the job of coaches and selectors very difficult. The climate is also unfavourable for playing rugby union for much of the year. The province of British Columbia is something of a stronghold as it does not have quite as severe a climate.

Canada has around 13,000 seniors and twice as many juniors playing the game across its vast expanse in more than 200 clubs with the leading domestic competitions being the Rugby Canada Super League and BCRU Premier League.


Rugby football in Canada dates back to the 1860s. Introduction of the game and its early growth is usually credited to settlers from Britain and the British army and navy in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Esquimalt, British Columbia.

In 1864 the first recorded game of rugby in Canada took place in Montreal among artillery men. It is most likely that rugby got its start in British Columbia in the late 1860s or early 1870s when brief mention of ‘football’ appeared in print. The first recorded game in British Columbia was played on Vancouver Island in 1876, between members of the Royal Navy and the Army. It was played regularly after this in Victoria by local players and sailors on the British ships stationed at Esquimalt.

The first club was formed in 1868. At that time no international agreed set of rules existed and the Rugby Football Union of England would not publish its official set of rules until 1871. Shortly after the game in Montreal Trinity College in Toronto published the first set of Canadian rugby rules.

In 1874 when the first North American international game took place in Cambridge, Ma. between McGill and Harvard universities. Later that same year a second game was played, but this time Harvard were the hosts, and the game was played with early "American Football" rules. Today, in carrying on the oldest annual sporting competition in North America, McGill University and Harvard University continue the tradition of competing for the Covo Cup, at alternating venues each November, using the original rules of rugby football. McGill University can therefore lay claim to being the oldest rugby club in Canada, but due to rugby's popularity among students and the McGill University Rugby Football Club's affiliation with the university, the claim as the oldest independent rugby club goes to the, still active, Westmount Rugby Football Club.

A Canadian Rugby Football Union was established in 1884, although this organisation went on to become the Canadian Football League, as rugby football in Canada evolved into Canadian Football. In 1909, Lord Earl Grey, then Governor General of Canada, donated a trophy to the CRU to be awarded for the Rugby Football Championship of Canada. This trophy became known as the Grey Cup. However the rules used in Canada were vastly different to the rules used in countries that were part of the IRB. In the years that followed, the CRU would legalise forward passing and make other changes that would make Canadian football a totally different sport.

During World War 1 and 2 rugby union was suspended but in the inter-war period there was something of a renaissance. In 1919 a Canadian Services team played overseas against representatives from England, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. The formation of the Rugby Union of Canada took place in 1929 and this was followed by a tour of Japan by a Canadian representative side in 1932 to help foster trade between the two countries. About half the team were Canadian born (mostly British Columbia players) and the rest were originally from Britain. They lost 9-8 and 38-5 in the two test matches.

The original Canadian Rugby Union disbanded just before World War 2. Canada’s team to the United Kingdom in 1962 was dominated by British Columbia players. The Rugby Union of Canada were re-formed in 1965 as the Canadian Rugby Union.

At the inaugural World Cup in 1987 they managed only one win against Tonga.

The Canadian national team put in some strong performances over the past decade or so as high-tide marks for performance. In the 1991 Rugby World Cup they beat Fiji and Romania before narrowly losing 19-13 to France in the pool stage, they went out in the quarter-final of the 1991 World Cup 29-13 to New Zealand. They famously beat Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, France in Canada 18-16; achieved a 27-27 draw against Ireland in 2000, and a 26-23 win against Scotland in Vancouver in 2002. The win over Scotland was the start of a series of seven victories before losing to Wales in Cardiff and France in Paris.

Canada managed only one win in both the 1995 Rugby World Cup (against Romania) and the 1999 Rugby World Cup (against Namibia).

They also won the now defunct Pacific Rim tournament three years in succession in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Since 2003 Canada has played host to the Churchill Cup, but has yet to make the final. In 2004 and 2005 they replaced China in the Super Powers Cup.

Like all second and third tier nations the Canadians have had problems having these players available for important games. As a consequence Canada has slipped out of the top 10 rugby union nations, but has never-the-less provided top class players such as Dan Baugh, Rod Snow, Mike James, Colin Yukes and Jamie Cudmore to teams in England, Wales and France.

The Canadians qualified for their fifth world cup in a row, the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia. Their sole win was a 24-7 result against Tonga.

Famous players

See also