The Concordia Stingers men’s rugby team have reached the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship for the last two years with back-to-back undefeated seasons in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) conference. This year will mark a third appearance in as many years for them at the Championship, as the Concordia University department of recreation and athletics has been selected to host the tournament this year.
The 2019 Championship will be played at Concordia Stadium, from Nov. 20-24. It will be the third edition of the tournament, with the University of Guelph and the University of Victoria hosting the first two, respectively.
With this year’s tournament played at Concordia, the Stingers are guaranteed a berth as hosts of the event. However, Stingers players like Stephen Martinez think this secured spot won’t affect their approach this season.
“The boys still want to earn their spot in the tournament, which means finishing in first place again, even if we’re guaranteed a spot as hosts,” Martinez said. “Second place isn’t in our vocabulary. We need to work to prove that we belong there, regardless if we’re hosting or not.”
Martinez adds that having the tournament at Concordia is a great opportunity to develop Quebec’s interest in the sport.
“Having this tournament here will hopefully show some higher level teams that Quebec teams can compete and that there are a lot of talented players here,” Martinez said. “With more interest, it might spark the start of a Major League Rugby team in Montreal.”
Stingers veteran Lucas Hotton says the difference of having the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship at Concordia might be more emotional than about the game itself, as players will play in front of family and friends.
“I think that’s a huge advantage because [rugby’s] not just a physical sport, but also a very mental one,” Hotton said. “Each little play makes a big difference, and that will be the difference as you’ll see more heart and more emotion on the field.”
Martinez also sees the home crowd as a factor in such a big tournament. The Stingers are undefeated at home since 2016 and he says the plan is to keep it that way this year, including at the Championship.
“Playing in front of a home crowd can encourage us a bit more to perform once we are there. A lot of us will have family and friends there. Our club teams will be there to support us, so it will be a really good environment.”
While hosting the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship won’t change their season approach, Hotton says it can be harder for a team to focus on its season first, knowing what’s coming for them in November.
“I know a lot of the players are really excited to host the Championship, but it’s important to make sure they keep their feet on the ground and focus on one game at a time,” Hotton said. “I think that will be the approach this season, just like it’s been the last one. One game at a time, and just make sure everyone works each week as we progress through the season.”
Feature photo by Hannah Ewen