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Rugby in Canada: Growth and Grit in Canadian Rugby

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Finding your place within the diverse world of sports can be a challenge. Rugby in Canada, with its robust history dating back to the 1850s, is emerging as a riveting choice for athletes seeking camaraderie and adrenaline.

This article dives into the evolution of Canadian rugby, celebrating its triumphs and anticipating its future milestones. Get ready to explore a game that’s all heart and hustle!

Key Takeaways

  • Rugby Canada, established in 1974, governs the sport and has been pivotal in promoting its growth, with clubs flourishing across the nation and high school programs nurturing young talent.
  • Canadian rugby teams participate in international competitions like the Rugby World Cup and Americas Rugby Championship, showcasing their skills on a global platform while domestic leagues such as Major League Rugby offer professional opportunities at home.
  • Women’s rugby is experiencing substantial growth in Canada due to increased support and visibility, proving that gender equality in sports is progressing positively.
  • Youth development is a key focus for Rugby Canada with initiatives such as Long-Term Player Development (LTRD) models guiding youngsters through an eight-stage pathway from entry-level to elite stages of play.
  • The Strategic Plan 2024 by Rugby Canada outlines ambitious goals for increasing participation at all levels and fostering a culture of high performance with collaboration between Rugby Union and Rugby League potentially leading towards establishing a professional league.

History of Rugby in Canada

Rugby in Canada has a rich history, with the sport growing in popularity and development over the years. It has also had an interesting relationship with Canadian football.

Popularity and growth

Rugby union’s stand in Canada has been climbing the ranks of popularity, especially in areas where participation soars. With a heritage stretching back to the 1850s, the sport’s prominence owes much to Rugby Canada, established in 1974 as the official governing body.

Clubs are sprouting nationwide, and high school programs foster young talent eager to dive into this gritty game.

The sport continues to carve its path within Canadian culture, bolstered by events like Canada Sevens which shine a spotlight on rugby’s thrilling action. As recognition for exceptional skill and determination blooms with inductions into Rugby Canada Hall of Fame, more Canadians find themselves drawn to rugby pitches each year.

This burgeoning interest lays fertile ground for potential professional leagues and promises an athletic future rich with competition and teamwork.

Development of the sport

Rugby Canada has been actively nurturing the sport, focusing on player development and coaching excellence. The governing body has implemented a strategic plan aimed at enhancing elite performance and fostering grit and determination within the rugby fraternity.

Emphasising the importance of grassroots growth, Rugby Canada is working to create a robust player development pathway across provinces, promoting youth involvement and recognising outstanding players through awards and recognition programmes.

The sport’s development in Canada is also aligned with collaborative efforts between Rugby League Canada. This collaboration aims to explore opportunities for expanding the sport’s reach while considering the possibility of establishing a professional league in the future.

Relationship with Canadian football

Rugby in Canada has a historical link with Canadian football, inspiring collaboration and shared influence. Although the two sports have distinct rules and strategies, they share common elements such as physicality, teamwork, and strategic play.

This relationship has fostered mutual respect between players and fans of both sports, contributing to the overall growth of rugby in Canada. The coexistence of these two sports has enriched the sporting landscape, offering diverse options for athletes and enthusiasts alike.

Canadian football’s impact on rugby in Canada is evident through cross-sport initiatives like player development programs and coaching exchanges. This exchange benefits both games by enriching skill sets and promoting a deeper understanding of tactical approaches.

International Competitions

Rugby in Canada has seen its national teams competing on the international stage in prestigious tournaments such as the Rugby World Cup, Churchill Cup, Super Powers Cup, Americas Rugby Championship, and Pacific Nations Cup.

These competitions serve as a platform for Canadian rugby players to showcase their skills and passion for the sport on a global scale.

Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup is an international tournament held every four years to determine the best national rugby team. It is one of the premier events in international rugby, featuring top teams from around the world competing for the prestigious Webb Ellis Cup.

  1. The first Rugby World Cup was held in 1987 in New Zealand and Australia, with the New Zealand All Blacks emerging as the inaugural champions, defeating France in the final.
  2. The tournament has expanded over the years, with more nations participating and increased global viewership, contributing to the growth of rugby worldwide.
  3. The most successful teams in Rugby World Cup history include New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and England, with each team boasting multiple championship titles.
  4. Canada has made appearances in every Rugby World Cup since its inception in 1987, showcasing its grit and determination on the global stage of rugby.
  5. Notable moments in Rugby World Cup history include iconic matches, outstanding individual performances, and underdog stories that have captured the imagination of fans worldwide.
  6. The next Rugby World Cup is scheduled to take place in France in 2023, where teams will once again compete for glory and national pride on one of rugby’s biggest stages.

Churchill Cup

  1. The tournament consisted of national and club teams, aiming to develop players and officials in a competitive environment.
  2. Participating nations included Canada, the United States, England, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand Māori (a country-based team), and others.
  3. The success of the Churchill Cup led to its expansion into multiple divisions and age – grade competitions for both men and women.
  4. Additionally, the tournament helped raise the profile of rugby in Canada by bringing international teams to Canadian cities like Toronto and Edmonton.
  5. Over time, the format evolved from hosting solely men’s matches to also incorporating women’s games alongside the men’s competition.
  6. The competition provided valuable exposure for Canadian players to high-level opposition while enhancing the overall standard of domestic rugby.
  7. As a result of its impact on player development and promoting rugby in Canada, the Churchill Cup played a significant role in raising awareness and enthusiasm for the sport amongst Canadians.

Super Powers Cup

Rugby Canada has participated in the Super Powers Cup, an international rugby union competition that involves teams from Canada, the United States, and other countries. The Super Powers Cup is a significant event for Canadian rugby fans and players. It provides a platform for national teams to compete at an international level. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The Super Powers Cup serves as a valuable opportunity for Canadian rugby players to showcase their skills on an international stage.
  2. This tournament fosters strong competition between nations and contributes to the development of rugby in Canada.
  3. The event allows Canadian rugby fans to witness thrilling matches and support their national team.
  4. Participating in the Super Powers Cup bolsters Canada’s presence in the global rugby community and enhances the country’s reputation in the sport.
  5. The Super Powers Cup helps Rugby Canada expand its reach and build relationships with other participating nations.
  6. Competing in this prestigious tournament aligns with Rugby Canada’s efforts to elevate the status of rugby within the country and internationally.

Americas Rugby Championship

The Americas Rugby Championship is an annual competition featuring teams from North and South America. It was first held in 2016, and Canada has been a consistent participant, showcasing its talent on the international stage.

  1. The tournament provides a platform for countries such as Canada, the USA, Uruguay, Argentina XV, Chile, and Brazil to compete at a high level.
  2. Canada’s national rugby team has used the championship to test their skills against strong opposition within the region.
  3. The competition helps develop rugby talent in the Americas and promotes the growth of the sport in the region.
  4. The tournament also allows players to gain valuable experience and exposure in an international setting.
  5. Teams utilise this championship as part of their preparation for other major competitions like the Rugby World Cup and qualifiers for the Americas’ regions.

Pacific Nations Cup

Rugby in Canada has increasingly participated in the Pacific Nations Cup, an international competition fought between Pacific Rim nations. The tournament creates opportunities for Canadian players to challenge themselves at a higher level and gain valuable experience. The event fosters camaraderie and sportsmanship among competing nations.

  1. Canada’s participation in the Pacific Nations Cup paves the way for challenging matches against formidable opponents from the Pacific Rim, such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Japan.
  2. The tournament serves as a platform for Canadian rugby players to showcase their skills on the international stage and gain exposure to different styles of play.
  3. Competing in the Pacific Nations Cup allows Rugby Canada to foster relationships with other participating nations and contribute to the global growth of the sport.
  4. Players representing Canada in the Pacific Nations Cup have the opportunity to develop their strategic understanding of the game by facing diverse playing styles and tactics.
  5. As part of its strategic plan, Rugby Canada aims to leverage its participation in the Pacific Nations Cup to elevate its standing on the world stage and further expand interest in rugby within Canada.
  6. The Pacific Nations Cup offers Canadian fans an exciting opportunity to witness high – level international rugby competition played by some of the best teams in the world.
  7. By participating in the Pacific Nations Cup, Rugby Canada is contributing to greater diversity and inclusivity within international rugby while solidifying its position as a respected member of the global rugby community.

Domestic Competitions

The Canadian Rugby Championship, Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League, and Major League Rugby are just some of the domestic competitions that showcase the talent and passion for rugby in Canada.

These leagues provide a platform for local teams to compete at a high level and contribute to the growth of the sport within the country.

Canadian Rugby Championship

The Canadian Rugby Championship is an annual competition that brings together the best club teams from across the country. It serves as a platform for showcasing top talent and fostering fierce competition.

  1. The championship features teams from Eastern Canada, Ontario, and Western Canada, with each team vying for the prestigious MacTier Cup.
  2. The tournament provides a high – level competition experience for players and contributes to the growth of rugby across Canada.
  3. Clubs such as Ontario Blues, Atlantic Rock, Prairie Wolf Pack, and British Columbia Bears compete in this event.
  4. The championship also offers an opportunity for talented players to catch the attention of national selectors and potentially earn spots on the national team.
  5. It plays a crucial role in elevating the standard of play at both the domestic and international levels.
  6. The competition showcases some of Canada’s most promising talent while encouraging grassroots participation in rugby.
  7. Through this championship, Rugby Canada continues to foster a competitive environment that drives player development throughout the country.
  8. The Canadian Rugby Championship is an integral part of nurturing the talent pool necessary for continued success on the global stage.

Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League

As a stepping stone from the national competition, the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League offers an elevated level of play for rugby enthusiasts across Canada. This premier league serves as a platform for top-tier talent to showcase their skills and compete at a high level. Here’s what you need to know about the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League:

  1. The Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League features elite rugby clubs from various regions in Canada, providing an opportunity for players to compete at an advanced level within their home country.
  2. This premier league plays a crucial role in identifying and nurturing top rugby talents, promoting competitive growth, and elevating the standard of play in Canadian rugby.
  3. Teams from across Canada participate in the league, fostering healthy rivalries and strengthening the overall quality of domestic rugby competition.
  4. The Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League contributes significantly to the development of young players by providing them with exposure to high-level competition and creating pathways for advancement.
  5. With its competitive structure and emphasis on skill development, this premier league plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of rugby in Canada by maintaining high standards and fostering continued growth.
  6. The league has been instrumental in raising the profile of domestic rugby by attracting fans and generating interest in professional-level competitions within Canada.
  7. Through its commitment to excellence and sportsmanship, the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League plays a vital role in solidifying Canada’s position on the global rugby stage while inspiring aspiring athletes nationwide.

Major League Rugby

Major League Rugby is a professional rugby union competition in North America. It features teams from both the United States and Canada. The league was founded in 2017 and has been steadily expanding since then.

  1. Major League Rugby currently consists of teams from 12 cities across North America, including Toronto Arrows representing Canada, with plans to further expand in the future.
  2. The league aims to elevate the standard of rugby in North America by providing a platform for top players to compete at a professional level.
  3. Teams in Major League Rugby showcase international talent alongside homegrown players, contributing to the growth and development of rugby in both Canada and the United States.
  4. Matches are broadcasted on various platforms, contributing to increased visibility and interest in the sport across North America.
  5. The league’s commitment to community engagement and youth development programs is fostering a new generation of rugby fans and players.
  6. Major League Rugby is helping to establish a stronger foundation for the sport in Canada, with Toronto Arrows being an integral part of increasing participation and interest in rugby across the country.

Age Grade and Women’s Rugby

The growth of women’s rugby in Canada is significant, with more opportunities and support for female athletes. Read more about the importance of youth development and the rise of women’s rugby in Canada.

Importance of youth development

Rugby Canada recognises the significance of youth development in nurturing future rugby talent. The LTRD model is instrumental in guiding young players through an 8-stage pathway, paving the way from initial engagement to elite levels.

With initiatives such as Canada Sevens, the sport gains exposure among younger demographics and presents a compelling opportunity for growth. Canadian Rugby Union’s dedication to fostering youth involvement ensures that rugby continues to thrive at various age grades across the country.

Canadian rugby thrives on encouraging participation from an early age, emphasising skill-building and character development. Youth engagement not only shapes promising athletes but also perpetuates a strong sense of community and sportsmanship within the Canadian rugby landscape.

Growth of women’s rugby in Canada

Following the emphasis on youth development, the growth of women’s rugby in Canada has been remarkable. The increasing participation and support for women’s rugby across the country have seen a surge in leagues, clubs, and programmes catering specifically to female players.

Rugby Canada has prioritised gender equality within the sport and is focused on providing equal opportunities for women to excel in rugby at all levels.

The growing popularity of events such as Women’s Sevens Series and other national competitions has also played an instrumental role in showcasing the talent and commitment of Canadian female rugby players.

Future of Rugby in Canada

Rugby Canada has set ambitious goals in its Strategic Plan 2024, which includes increasing participation at all levels and fostering a high-performance culture. The collaboration with Rugby League Canada and the possibility of a professional league show the exciting potential for the future of rugby in Canada.

To find out more about the growth and grit of Canadian rugby, keep reading!

Goals of Rugby Canada’s Strategic Plan 2024

Rugby Canada’s Strategic Plan 2024 outlines ambitious goals to enhance the sport’s infrastructure, development, and performance at every level. The plan aims to achieve the following:

  1. Improve participation rates across all age groups and skill levels by engaging more communities and schools in rugby programmes.
  2. Increase the number of qualified coaches by providing accessible coaching courses and resources to support grassroots development.
  3. Enhance player pathways and talent identification systems to nurture top-tier athletes from a young age through to elite competition.
  4. Strengthen partnerships with provincial unions, clubs, and other stakeholders to foster a cohesive and supportive rugby ecosystem nationwide.
  5. Elevate the overall standard of competition by investing in referee development, quality facilities, and optimised player welfare initiatives.
  6. Promote inclusivity and diversity within the sport through targeted outreach programmes aimed at engaging underrepresented populations.
  7. Develop sustainable financial models to support long – term growth and stability within the Canadian rugby landscape.
  8. Establish clear governance structures that prioritise transparency, accountability, and effective decision-making processes within Rugby Canada’s operations.

Collaboration with Rugby League Canada

To further enhance the growth and development of rugby in Canada, Rugby Canada has been actively engaging in collaboration with Rugby League Canada. This partnership aims to bring together expertise and resources from both organisations to promote and expand the sport across the country.

By working together, they aim to create more opportunities for players at all levels, drive participation in communities, and foster a strong sense of sportsmanship among rugby enthusiasts.

Rugby Canada’s collaboration with Rugby League Canada also seeks to explore avenues for joint initiatives that can elevate the profile of rugby within Canadian sports. Leveraging their combined networks, these two bodies are aiming to increase visibility and awareness of rugby through various outreach programmes, events, and promotional activities.

Possibility of a professional league

Rugby in Canada is steadily moving towards the possibility of a professional league, which would provide more opportunities for players and fans alike. The success of Major League Rugby in the US has sparked interest and discussions about creating a similar platform in Canada.

This move could elevate the sport’s profile, attract top talent, and offer a pathway to compete at a higher level.

Furthermore, establishing a professional league can enhance the development of homegrown Canadian talent while drawing international players to participate in the league. With these prospects on the horizon, stakeholders are actively exploring ways to make this vision a reality and bring professional rugby closer to Canadian fans.

Recognition and awards for outstanding players

Rugby Canada has a prestigious Hall of Fame with the latest induction honoring nine Canadian rugby legends. This recognition motivates current and future players, highlighting their dedication to the sport.

Prominent awards like the John Cannon Memorial Player of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year celebrate outstanding talent, inspiring others to aim for excellence in their performance.

As Canada continues to embrace rugby’s growth, celebrating top performers is essential in sustaining this momentum. Moving forward, emerging stars will shape the future landscape of Canadian rugby as they strive for these coveted accolades.


As Canadian rugby continues to grow and evolve, its future looks promising. With ongoing youth development programs and the increasing popularity of women’s rugby, the sport is gaining traction across the country.

Rugby Canada’s Strategic Plan 2024 aims to further enhance the sport’s reach and potential, while collaborations with Rugby League Canada hint at exciting possibilities for a professional league.

The outstanding achievements of Canadian rugby icons continue to inspire new generations and reinforce the sport’s place in Canada’s sports landscape.


1. What’s the current state of rugby in Canada?

Rugby in Canada is showing signs of growth and increasing popularity as more people start playing and watching the sport.

2. How has Canadian rugby shown grit over the years?

Canadian rugby players have showcased their determination by competing fiercely on international levels despite limited resources compared to bigger teams.

3. Are Canadian teams competitive in world rugby events?

Yes, Canadian rugby teams are competitive and frequently participate with strong performances that reflect their commitment to the game.

4. Can young Canadians get involved in Rugby?

Absolutely! There are numerous youth programs across Canada designed to introduce young people to the sport and encourage them to develop their skills.

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