September 14, 2011
Big hearts, big win for CanadaRally to beat Tonga in Rugby World Cup opener
By PAUL SVOBODA, QMI Agency
Yes, I'm one of those fools who stayed up until 5 a.m. Wednesday to watch three straight televised games from the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand — including a tremendous 25-20, come-from-behind win by Canada over a tough Tongan team.
For the uninitiated, and for those who profess to know nothing about rugby except that it looks like a bar brawl on a football field, Canada was listed two spots below Tonga in world rankings before the match. So this is a significant victory.
Canada must now face France, which is kind of like Luxembourg facing, well, Canada in hockey. An upset is all but impossible.
The top-ranked New Zealand All-Blacks are also in Canada's pool which means the best our national team can hope for is a .500 record and to do that they must defeat Japan which is far from a guarantee too.
You see, since rugby — one of the last bastions of amateurism in the world of sports — went openly professional, all of the best rugby-playing nations in the world — New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and even Fiji, Samoa and Tonga — boast lineups consisting entirely of players who get paid to play.
Only a handful of players who participated in the exciting win over Tonga make a living overseas playing their favourite sport.
Most of our guys play right here, in Canada. They hold down regular jobs, when they can, and get a small stipend from the federal government as nationally-carded athletes.
So, today, whether or not you know the difference between a scrum or a rolling maul — or even care, for that matter — you should be proud to be Canadian.
Our lads, playing mostly for the love of the game, tackled like demons, ran like the wind and jumped for joy at the final whistle.
Canadian head coach Kieran Crowley, a native New Zealander who played for the All-Blacks when they won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, appears to understand our country and its sportsmen. After the win over Tonga, Crowley told reporters: "Canadians have heart."
Yes, we do.