Cana­dian club mak­ing rugby World Cup de­but

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVID­SON

Canada steps into the deep end at the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, on Thurs­day when it makes its in­ter­na­tional de­but against three-time cham­pion New Zealand.

While many of the Canada Ravens have im­pres­sive rugby union cre­den­tials, they are new to the 13-woman code. And Canada coach Mike Cas­tle, a trans­planted Brit who now makes his home on Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast, has had lit­tle time with his new team. But he likes what he sees. “I’ve been blown away by how quickly they’ve picked up the whole con­cept of the game,” Cas­tle said af­ter an­nounc­ing his ros­ter. “Ath­let­i­cally I didn’t ex­pect it to be quite as good. I knew there were go­ing to be a lot of qual­ity ath­letes in Canada, but I’ve been more than im­pressed.”

Canada rugby union internationals on the Ravens squad in­clude An­drea Burk, Gil­lian Hoag, Mandy Mar­chak, Stevi Sch­noor and Natasha Smith.

Mar­chak and Burk both started for Canada in the fi­nal of the 2014 rugby union World Cup. Burk was also a mem­ber of the Cana­dian team at this sum­mer’s World Cup.

Bar­bara Wad­dell is one of the few Ravens play­ers with rugby league ex­pe­ri­ence. Born in Que­bec, she spent time in Canada, Fiji and Aus­tralia and now makes her home in Syd­ney. She has played rugby in both codes.

Pri­mar­ily played in Eng­land, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, rugby league is the sport’s lesser-known code al­though it has made in­roads in Canada this year with the suc­cess of the Toronto Wolfpack.

League fea­tures 13 play­ers in­stead of 15 with teams given six chances to ad­vance the ball up the field. It can be a bru­tal game with gang-tack­ling on de­fence, but there is also room for cre­ativ­ity on at­tack.

Af­ter New Zealand, Canada plays Pa­pua New Guinea on Nov. 19 and de­fend­ing cham­pion Aus­tralia on Nov 22. The other sides in the sixteam women’s field are the Cook Is­lands and Eng­land. The top four face off in the semi­fi­nals Nov. 26.

An­drea Burk

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