Rugby Canada resurrects Pacific Pride program, looking to develop young talent

Rugby Canada is dipping back into the past to resurrect the Pacific Pride, a national high-performance men’s academy program for players aged 18 to 24.

The academy will run some 10 months a year out of the Rugby Canada Al Charron National Training Centre in Langford, B.C.

Jamie Cudmore, Danny Baugh, Ryan Smith and John Tait are among the graduates of the original under-23 Pacific Pride program, which ran from 1996 to 2005.

The new program will largely draw on uncapped players seen to be one to three seasons away from playing senior international rugby. They will be chosen by Rugby Canada in conjunction with provincial unions. Selection for the 2019-2020 season is underway, with the beginning of August a tentative starting date.

The hope is the program will create a new path to the national 15s and sevens teams as well as pro clubs.

“They’ll be better for it … It’s a real positive,” said Canadian coach Kingsley Jones.

“There’s a really good detailed plan,” he added.

The Pacific Pride will play a full slate of away matches in the B.C. Rugby Men’s Premier League in addition to exhibition games against Major League Rugby teams to help showcase the young Canadian talent.

The academy program will also support the sevens side, with some members training with the senior men’s sevens squad on a weekly basis.

A head coach will be appointed, with Jones working with both players and coaches once his World Cup duties are over later this year.

Rugby Canada is funding the program via existing centralization budget allocations.

Some two dozen players of the 32 to 34 who were centralized and training under Jones have dispersed after signing MLR contracts. Those remaining have been training with the sevens side.

“We have heard consistently over the last few years from our rugby community about the importance and value an academy program brought to our sport,” Rugby Canada chairman Tim Powers said in a statement.

“We listened and agreed. The return of the Pacific Pride academy will be key as we work to improve our world rankings in the coming years.”

Canada is currently ranked 21st in the world.

The original Pacific Pride program was run by Rugby Canada and the Commonwealth Centre for Sport Development.

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