The Ontario Blues senior men’s provincial rugby team has announced its schedule surrounding the 2016 Johnsonville Canadian Rugby Championship season, with the Double Blue slated to play six matches throughout the upcoming campaign.
After a pre-season tilt with the Alberta Selects at Ellerslie Park in Edmonton (May 22) the Blues’ quest for a fifth MacTier Cup in six years kicks off at Sherwood Forest Park in Burlington, Ont., where Ontario will take on eastern rivals Atlantic Rock in their CRC opener (June 4).
A brief break in CRC play allows the Blues to square off against England Counties at Fletcher’s Fields in Markham, Ont. (June 11). The touring England Counties is the flagship team of the Community Game in England, and features players from National League One and below.
The fixture will be the visiting side’s third and final match of their tour to Canada, and represents the first meeting between the two teams since England Counties earned a narrow 32-26 win in 2010.
Ontario’s CRC action resumes with a trip to Swilers Rugby Park in St. John’s, N.L., where the Blues will play their reverse fixture against the Atlantic Rock (July 2).
The Blues’ CRC season wraps up with two matches over four days at Fletcher’s Fields, with Ontario hosting reigning national champions Prairie Wolf Pack (July 21) and British Columbia Bears (July 24).
“The CRC’s level of play has increased every year the competition has been held, and while the league’s margin for error is getting slimmer, it’s forcing our players to adopt an increasingly professional mentality to remain a step ahead of the competition,” said David Butcher, Rugby Ontario Manager of High Performance. “There are no easy matches in the CRC, but the Blues are looking forward to the challenges ahead, and the program is especially relishing the opportunity to play four top-level matches on home soil this season.”
The Blues earned four consecutive MacTier Cup prior to last season’s runner-up performance in an abbreviated two-match competition format, and have enjoyed an overall CRC record of 20-5-0 over the dominant five-year span.
Ontario’s senior men’s provincial rugby program has been increasingly successful in producing players for top international competitions in recent months; Ontario supplied 10 players for Canada’s 2015 Rugby World Cup squad last summer, while 10 Blues are currently representing Canada at the 2016 Americas Rugby Championship.
“We are very excited about our best fixture list in years, and to be able to add England Counties to an already challenging year is a real bonus,” said Mark Winokur, Ontario Blues manager. “Top quality international sides are reaching out to the CRC for games, and that shows the quality of Canada’s top domestic competition, and the potential for how far our league can go.”
Ticketing information for Blues home matches will be announced in the coming weeks.