History made: Cape Breton West wins Telus Cup championship
SYDNEY, N.S. — The little team that could from Cape Breton has done it.
Nathan Lake, left, and Jack Hanratty, the provincial coach for Rugby Nova Scotia, are currently in Ireland for a rugby tournament – something Hanratty says will help the Under 19 Atlantic Rock on their quest for nationals later this year.
WINDSOR, N.S. — For the second time this year, Nathan Lake, a Grade 12 Avon View High School student, has boarded a plane and travelled overseas.
Lake, who recently returned from playing in a rugby tournament in France, is now donning the Atlantic Rock's jersey and playing in Ireland.
Billed as a 'phenomenal opportunity,' Atlantic Rock Under 19 rugby players left the region April 30 to take part in the special overseas match up.
The Atlantic Rock is comprised of players from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Lake is the only player from Hants County on the Under 19 men's team.
“Nathan is still a year young for this team but he's certainly of the standard to step up and play in this tournament,” said Jack Hanratty, the provincial coach for Rugby Nova Scotia, who is also in Ireland with the team.
Hanratty said the Atlantic Rock Under 19 men's team will be vying for nationals, and said the best way to prepare the team is to have them challenged by top-caliber athletes.
“Instead of flying for $800 to Ontario, why don't we fly $800 to Ireland and get the opportunity of having a team that treats rugby like Canadians treat hockey?” Hanratty said.
“It's a phenomenal opportunity to see a beautiful country – I might be biased in that – and to actually see players who train and play all year round, three or four times a week. It's going to be a real test.”
One of the locations the group will be visiting is that of the Skerries Rugby Club, located on Ireland’s east coast, north of Dublin City. It holds a special significance to Hanratty.
“It's the first time I've brought a Canadian side back to Skerries Rugby Club. I'm really excited to show exactly where I learned the game and where I learned my love for it,” said Hanratty, who calls Halifax home now.
“My family certainly has a tradition of it. My grandfather was one of the first presidents; my uncle has been president and captain; my cousin was club captain a few years ago so I'm really excited to bring a team back and compete against some of these guys in my hometown,” he said.
Hanratty said the Atlantic Rock Under 19 team will gain some valuable insight into the sport while in Ireland, which they will be able to use when they compete at nationals against squads from British Columbia, Ontario, the prairie provinces, and Eastern Ontario with Quebec.
France trip highlights
Hanratty travelled with Lake to the Rugby Europe U18 Open Championships 2017 in Quimper, France in April as Team Canada's Under 18 attack coach.
The Canadians lost their first two games – one was against the second place Georgia, the other was to Belgium – but bounced back and beat the United States in their final bout.
“We ended up getting a two-point victory, which was a perfect way to end the tournament. All the players really developed,” said Hanratty, noting that Lake contributed in all three games.
Hanratty has been watching Lake develop his rugby skills over the last three years and said he sees continued improvement.
“We want to make sure that players here get the highest standard of training so that they can stay at home, stay in school at home, and then eventually, if they are to move on to be a professional, that we have prepared them in the best possible way. That's our hope for Nathan,” said Hanratty, while watching Lake play in a high school game.
The prop forward continues to play for the Avon View Avalanche while juggling outside rugby commitments. Last year, he played for the Windsor Hants County Machine mens' team, was named the Under 18 captain of the Nova Scotia Keltics, and played on the Atlantic Rock Under 18 men's team.
“I want him to, by the time he's 35, look around the room and have many different age jerseys as well as a seniors' mens. That's what we're building to,” said Hanratty.
In a sports feature prior to leaving for France, Lake said he was hoping to eventually play for Canada's senior mens’ team.
“That's the end goal,” said Lake.