Vancouver, BC – April 16, 2019: BC Rugby is pleased to announce the appointment of James Thompson as the Head Coach of the BC Rugby Senior Men's XVs team, better known as the BC Bears. Simon Fitzgerald has been appointed as Assistant Coach as they look to usher in some up and coming talent to the BC Bears program.
Thompson has had a significant impact on the BC Rugby scene since his arrival six years ago. Starting out as a player for UBC for his first three years, he then progressed to coaching with UBCOB Ravens. No stranger to success, he has had already the honour of lifting the Rousenfell Cup along with the title of BC Rugby Men’s Premier League Champions as both a player and coach.
When asked about his aspirations for the BC Bears this summer, Thompson was full of enthusiasm, stating “We’ve got some amazing talent in the BC Senior Men’s Premier and Premier Reserve Leagues just now. I’m hoping to bring in some of the younger guys who have been on the fringe in previous years and get them experiencing the pace and power of Provincial level competition.”
Assuming the role of Assistant Coach, Simon Fitzgerald will bring plenty of experience to the coaching staff. Currently operating as Director of Rugby at Nanaimo Hornets, Fitzgerald has plenty of rugby pedigree from his time coaching with Queens University Belfast as well as the Netherlands U20 XVs. With a keen eye for talent development, as well as a strong background in player/coach education, he is an exciting addition to the coaching lineup for the BC Bears.
With the Rugby World Cup in Japan at the end of the summer, the competition landscape for provincial teams in 2019 is a little different to normal. There will not be a Canadian Rugby Championship across all provinces, with many players likely to be involved in training and warm-up fixtures for their country.
However, BC Rugby and Alberta Rugby have worked together to ensure that there is still meaningful competition for top athletes in the Western Provinces. A two-game “Best of the West” series between the BC Bears and Prairie Wolfpack will be held in June and July, with one fixture taking place on June 29th in Red Deer, AB, and the home leg for the Bears taking place at Apple Bowl in Kelowna on July 27th. This home fixture will align with the U16 Western Canadian Championships also being held in Kelowna, providing some inspiration for the Age-Grade stars of the BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan teams. The BC Bears will also face Reeds Weybridge RFC, a touring side from England, in fixtures to be held at UBC on July 10th.
The pathway for prospective BC Bears players gets a soft start in the coming weeks as the BC Senior Men’s Leagues enter Playoff stages and build to the BC Rugby Club Finals on May 4th at Burnaby. However, the main route to getting identified starts with playing for a Regional team in the McKechnie Cup and Dunbar Keg. Athletes will be observed at training sessions and matches in these historic competitions before being invited to join a development squad. Training groups for this squad will be held on both the Island and Lower Mainland before a final Bears Team is named for the first clash with Prairie Wolfpack.
The McKechnie Cup and Dunbar Keg, along with the Ruth Hellerud-Brown Cup, are the three historic regional rugby competitions in BC. Teams from South Vancouver Island (Tide), North Vancouver Island (Tsunami), Vancouver (Wave) and Fraser Valley compete for both pride and much-coveted silverware in a round-robin format in Spring each year, following the completion of the BC Rugby Senior Club Rugby season. The competitions pit the top athletes from each region against one another in Senior Men (McKechnie Cup), Senior Women (Ruth Hellerud-Brown Cup) and U23 Men (Dunbar Keg) divisions.
McKechnie Cup - Senior Men
May 11, 1:30pm – VIRU Tide vs NVIRU Tsunami @ Westshore RFC, Vancouver Island
May 18 2:45pm – VRU Wave vs NVIRU Tsunami @ Capilano RFC, North Vancouver
May 25 2:45pm – VRU Wave vs VIRU Tide @ TBC, Vancouver
Ruth Hellerud-Brown Cup - Senior Women
May 11, 12:00pm – VIRU Tide vs VRU Wave @ Westshore RFC, Vancouver Island
May 18, 1:00pm – VRU Wave vs VIRU Tide @ Capilano RFC, North Vancouver
Dunbar Keg - U23 Men
May 11, 10:30am – VIRU Tide vs FVRU @ Westshore RFC, Vancouver Island
May 18, 11:15am – VRU Wave vs FVRU @ Capilano RFC, North Vancouver
May 25 1:00pm– VRU Wave vs VIRU Tide @ TBC, Vancouver
“Best of the West” – BC Bears vs. Prairie Wolfpack
June 29th – Settlers Place at Great Chief Park, Red Deer, AB
July 27th – Apple Bowl Stadium, Kelowna, BC