Ryan Vick (#3) prepares to receive the ball while playing with the Celtic Barbarians in the Tropical 7s in Orlando. (Jason Scherr photo)

Rupert rugby athletes in Orlando

Three rookies get their first test with touring rugby squad at Tropic 7s

Five Prince Rupert athletes earned a special honour earlier this year when they were selected to play for the Celtic Barbarians in the prestigious Tropical 7s rugby tournament in Orlando.

For three of them, it was their first time dressing up for the North American based touring rugby club. Charles Hays athletes, and Vick brothers, Ryan and Owen, along with Jason Rioux, all made their debuts for the prestigious squad.

Formed in 2008, the Barbarians have quickly become one of the most elite rugby programs on the continent, putting up strong performances in both domestic and international tournaments. The selection process is no easy task: potential players must show their skills on the field while also receiving character references from their coaches. Players primarily are drawn from North American teams, but the club has also featured athletes from Europe and Japan.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert rugby player at Utah tournament

Founder and coach Cam Wilton came up with the idea for the club. Born out of a desire to secure more playing time for players in Canada and the northern United States who can be forced to endure shorter playing seasons, the various Barbarian teams have gone on over 40 tours and seen over 500 players pass through their ranks.

Owen Vick in action for the Barbarians during the Tropical 7s tournament. (Jason Scherr photo)

Ryan and Owen Vick had been recommended based off of their performances on the Charles Hays Rainmakers rugby team. Both brothers ended up on teams that found themselves playing against more experienced players, Ryan on the U-18 squad and Owen with the U-16s.

While some of the game results did not go the Barbarians’ way, Wilton noted the invaluable experience both boys gained. This was on display the next week, when the Vick’s were back on the field in Abbotsford with the Rainmakers in a rugby camp run by Wilton.

“By the time I’d seen both Vick brothers it was just a massive improvement,” Wilton said. “They had processed what they learned on tour and put their new-found confidence into play against Yale Secondary.”

Wilton was referencing a pair of games the Rainmakers played against the Yale Secondary teams, noting the brothers in particular for their standout performances at the clinic. “We wanted to give them an opportunity to show their talents and they did.”

Jason Rioux (#20) gets set on defence for his Celtic Barbarians team. (Jason Scherr photo)

Jason Rioux was the other new member of the Barbarians team, having most recently played with the Westshore Rugby Club in Victoria.

“We heard he was super fast,” Wilton said. “He always had a smile on his face, and he was loving the whole experience.”

Rioux’s team was originally set to play in a U-20 division, but were moved up to the U-23 Open Division due to a lack of teams. They were then merged again into the U-23 Elite Division, pitting them against some of the top talent at the tournament.

Wilton says it is rare for so much talent to come out of a town the size of Prince Rupert.

“There’s not many towns Prince Rupert’s size that we take people from at all,” Wilson said. “But there’s a rich history of rugby through the alumni in Prince Rupert that keeps us informed of people that we should take a chance on and get them on an international trip.”

“The recent partnership between Prince Rupert and the Celtic Barbarians has brought some talented student-athletes to the world stage. I am happy to continue to foster the hidden rugby gems in Prince Rupert that are just waiting to shine.”

READ MORE: Awards night at Charles Hays for Rainmakers rugby squad

READ MORE: Schaeffer brings his rugby game south


Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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