It’s not everyday your coach lines up next to you as a player, but that’s what’s happening as a core of University of Victoria Vikes women’s rugby players, and coaching staff, have been selected to Rugby Canada’s roster at the Women’s Super Series, June 27 to July 5 in Alberta.
All four teams, New Zealand, U.S.A and England, are currently ranked in the top six IRB world rankings.
Third year Vikes Jess Neilson, Julia Folk and Tiffany Picketts join newly named Vikes women’s rugby head coach Brittany Waters and assistant coaches Laura Russell, Julianne Zussman and Barbara Mervin on the 27-player roster. Current Vike Nicole Crowley will travell with the team as manager.
“It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to get to play alongside (Waters) as well as our other coaches during the Super Series,” said Neilson.
The Vikes fly half was part of Canada’s U20 team that went undefeated at the 2013 Nations Cup over England, South Africa and U.S.A.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played with (the coaches) before on a few occasions, it’s always a great learning experience and unique chance to play alongside people you look up to,” she said.
Zussman and Mervin made regular appearances for the premier-level provincial champion Velox Valkyries during the team’s Saanich days.
The national roster is chosen by head coach Francois Ratier. Twelve of the 27 are returnees from Canada’s second place finish at the 2014 Women’s World Cup with 15 new players bringing varying levels of international experience.
Canada faces New Zealand on June 27 in Calgary, U.S.A. on July 1 in Red Deer and England on July 5 in Edmonton.
“It’s always important to play the best in the world,” Ratier said. “New Zealand and England have both new coaches so we will see what they have to offer. They all will be strong, there’s no doubt about that.”
It’s the first IRB international tests for Canada since they fell to England in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup final.
“It speaks really well for the Vikes program for many years to come with this kind of presence,” Neilson added.
“It’s really exciting.”
Canada’s roster for the 2015 Women’s Super Series:
Gillian Allen, (Kirin) Saskatoon, SK
Tyson Beukeboom, (Aurora Barbarians) Uxbridge, ONLayota Blackwood, (St. Anne de Bellevue) Montreal, QCAndrea Burk, (Capilano RFC) North Vancouver, BCOlivia DeMerchant, (Woodstock Wildmen) Mapledale, NBJulia Folk, (Regina Rogues), Regina, SKLisa Gauthier, (St-Anne de Bellevue), St-Bernardino, ONChelsea Guthrie, (Stratchona Druids) Edmonton, ABLori Josephson, (Aurora Barbarians) Beaverton, ONMary-Jane Kirby, (Highland RFC) Brampton, ONCarolyn McEwan (Burnaby Lake Rugby Club), Vancouver, BCKatie McNally (Velox Valkries) Guelph, ONDaLeaka Menin, (Hornets) Vulcan, ABBarbara Mervin, (Velox RFC) Peterborough, ONJacey Murphy, (Aurora Barbarians) Alliston, ONJess Neilson, (Meraloma) Vancouver, BCCindy Nelles, (Belleville Bulldogs) Belleville, ONTiffany Picketts (UVIC VIKES/ Abbotsford Rugby Club), Abbotsford, BCCamile Provencal-Aube, (Abénakis et CRQ) Sherbrooke, QBLaura Russell, (Toronto Nomads) Bolton, ONMaria Samson, (Calgary Hornets) Calgary, ABNatasha Smith, (Barrhaven Scottish) Ottawa, ONEmma Taylor,Alex Tessier, (Montreal Barbarians) Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, QBAmanda Thornborough, (Brandon Barbarians RFC) Brandon, MBBrittany Waters, (Meraloma Athletic Club) Vancouver, BCJulianne Zussman, (Town of Mount Royal RFC) Montreal, QC