Canada’s front-row will receive a boost for the upcoming summer test series as forwards Ryan Hamilton and Hubert Buydens are headed to New Zealand to play club rugby in Taranaki.
Taranaki is one of the strongest provincial unions in New Zealand; Taranaki RFC competes in the 14-team ITM Cup – New Zealand’s top domestic provincial rugby competition – based out of New Plymouth on New Zealand’s North Island.
Buydens and Hamilton will play with New Plymouth Old Boys with the hopes of performing strong enough to receive a contract to play for Taranaki RFC.
Canada’s national men’s program has strong ties to Taranaki RFU as head coach Kieran Crowley played 200 games for the provincial side between 1980 and 1994 and coached the team from 1998 to 2007. Also, New Plymouth Old Boys head coach Niel Barnes has been Canada’s fowards coach in years past, including the 2011 RWC.
Buydens and Hamilton were both members of Canada’s 30-man squad for the 2011 RWC in New Zealand. Originally from Saskatoon, Buydens is a member of the Castaway Wanderers RFC and the Prairie Wolfpack. Buydens started all four Rugby World Cup matches as a prop for Canada and has a total of 13 caps dating back to his debut in June 2006. North Vancouver’s Ryan Hamilton came off the bench to replace Canada’s then-Captain Pat Riordan at hooker in each of the four RWC games.
The primary purpose of sending two of our national level athletes to Taranaki is development, as the two front-rows will be exposed to top-level competition in arguably the strongest rugby environment in the world. With a busy summer test series in the pipeline, Crowley believes this will be a beneficial experience for both forwards.
“This is a great opportunity for these players to be exposed to southern hemisphere games, training and techniques and to put themselves forward to possibly obtain professional contracts,” said Crowley from New Zealand during the Wellington Sevens preparation.
New Zealand’s club rugby season runs from March until late July. Both Buydens and Hamilton will have a chance to train and compete in Taranaki before returning home for international duties in the Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup Qualifiers this summer.
Having competed in Whangarei, Napier and Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island during the RWC, Hamilton is excited and thankful for the opportunity to live and train in Taranaki.
“Playing in New Zealand is an awesome opportunity for me to challenge myself as a rugby player; I’m thankful for the opportunity that’s been provided by Rugby Canada and Taranaki,” said Hamilton from the Centre of Excellence.
“New Zealand is a beautiful country with a strong rugby culture and great people and I enjoyed my time there during the Rugby World Cup.
2013 is proving to be a busy year for Canadian rugby, as Canada will compete in the recently announced new-look IRB Pacific Nations along with home-and-away Rugby World Cup Qualifiers against the USA. As one of the more experienced players on Canada’s roster, Buydens is looking forward to the opportunity to play in the southern hemisphere.
“We obviously have a busy year ahead of us and I’m looking to go down there and have a good experience training and competing in Taranaki,” said Buydens. “I think this is a great opportunity for Ryan and I, and I look forward to the experience.”
Buydens and Hamilton are set to travel from British Columbia to New Zealand’s North Island on February 20th and will begin training with Taranaki shortly after leading up to the season debut.