Canada names captains for June test matches

Even in a locker room filled with big personalities, six-foot-five 250-pound Brett Beukeboom is hard to miss.

The second-row forward from Lindsay, Ont., will be front and centre this month with the Canadian men’s rugby team, serving as co-captain with star winger DTH van der Merwe for June test matches including a crucial World Cup qualifying series with the U.S.

“Overall, what they bring to the team is why we’ve named them as captains,” Canadian coach Mark Anscombe said in a statement Monday announcing the new leadership. “They bring a lot of passion, both love putting the jersey on, the way they go about their work in the week, they lead by example and they’re well-respected.

“They are guys who are going to be around for the next few years and that’s something you’ve got to look at as well.”

Van der Merwe, a strike runner who is leaving Wales’ Scarlets for England’s Newcastle Falcons next season, captained Canada last November for games against Romania and Samoa. The 31-year-old back, a star at the 2015 World Cup, has won 42 caps for Canada and ranks second in Canadian try-scoring ranks with 23.

The 26-year-old Beukeboom, who plays for the Cornish Pirates in England’s second tier, has won 24 caps.

“It’s a huge honour to be named co-captain,” Beukeboom said in an interview from Calgary. “There’s a lot of leaders in the team so it takes the pressure off myself and DTH.”

The Canadian roster includes former captains Tyler Ardron, Ray Barkwill, Hubert Buydens and Aaron Carpenter.

The Canadian men, ranked 23rd in the world, open their June series on Saturday in Calgary against No. 12 Georgia. They head to Edmonton next for a June 17 date with No. 16 Romania before hosting the 17th-ranked U.S. Eagles in Hamilton on June 24 in the opening leg of their World Cup qualifying series. The return leg is July 1 in San Diego.

Sports runs in the Beukeboom family. Younger brother Matt has also played for Canada and will be part of the under-20 squad for the Junior World Rugby Trophy qualifying series against the U.S. later this month.

Cousin Tyson Beukeboom is currently on tour with the Canadian women’s team in New Zealand.

His father, John Beukeboom, won the 1979 Memorial Cup as a defenceman with the Peterborough Petes. An eighth-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, he went on to spend six season in the minors where he collected more than 1,000 penalty minutes.

“He would jokingly say that he tripped a lot of people in his day,” said Brett.

His uncle Jeff Beukeboom played 13 seasons in the NHL with Edmonton and the New York Rangers. He won three Stanley Cups with the Oilers (1987, ‘88 and ‘90) and one with the Rangers (1994).

Brett Beukeboom says this Canadian rugby team can do some damage and is looking to climb back up the world rankings.

“There’s lot of talented players in this group and lots of them are vastly experienced … It’s an exciting team.”

Anscombe says Beukeboom and van de Merwe will work well together,.

“They’ve both got their roles to do,” Anscombe said. “One is out in the backs, the other in the forwards. In today’s game it’s sharing the workload and they will complement each other well.”

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