Rugby mascot a source of inspiration for Canadians at World Cup in Japan

Rugby mascot a source of inspiration for Canadians at World Cup in Japan

Unlike most mascots, the plush moose dressed as a Mountie comes with a important back story for the Canadian men at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The moose, part of the Canada team since 2007, is usually left on the side of the pitch during games.

But it transitioned from mascot to inspiration after a 2011 team talk in Victoria by Capt. Trevor Greene, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces who nearly died in Afghanistan.

Today the team mascot is called Captain Greene in his honour.

“He’s a very powerful man to this team and especially to me,” Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe said prior to the 2015 World Cup. “I get super-emotional thinking about him.

“I play with him every time I play the game. I write (his name) on my wrist, even for my local clubs. I just think he’s a huge inspiration. Everyone in Canada, especially in Rugby Canada, can take a leaf out of his book — just to never give up and just to keep believing in what you want from life.”

A journalist and author, Greene went to Afghanistan as an army reservist.

In 2006, he was attacked by a 16-year-old boy wielding an axe as he and other Canadian soldiers talked to village elders. His brain was nearly split in half, leaving him in a coma. Doctors said Greene might never survive but he defied the odds.

They said he would never walk again. He stood up at his wedding, for the first time. And he took steps, with a special robotic exoskeleton and financial support from the Royal Canadian Legion.

Greene, a former rugby enthusiast who received the Sacrifice Medal, was a torch-bearer for the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

Cole Keith, a 22-year-old prop from Saint John, N.B., has been entrusted with Captain Greene in Japan.

“He’s always there with us,” Keith told rugbyworldcup.com. “I bring him to every meal, every practice, every gym session. Every single thing we do as a team, he’s got to be there.”

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