It was Tuesday. It was Belgium. And Coldstream’s Isaac (Ike) Olson was, in fact, not really a tourist.
He wasn’t an American seeing the sites of nine European countries on an 18-day bus tour like in the 1969 cult film classic If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. Olson was with Canada’s men’s rugby team who flew from Portugal to Brussels for training prior to an international men’s 15s friendly match Nov. 13 between Canada and Belgium. Head coach Kingsley Jones gave Olson the news: he would be in the starting 15 against the Belgians.
“We were training when he named the squad,” said Olson, 21, from his home in Langford, outside of Victoria, after returning to Canada from a two-game Canadian fall tour that saw Canada defeat Belgium 24-0 after having lost 20-17 in a heartbreaker to Portugal. “I was shocked. It was a crazy feeling seeing my name on the list.”
Olson, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound winger, started in the backs against Belgium. He played 72 minutes against a gutsy Belgian squad ranked No. 28 in the world to earn his first international cap for Canada.
“They were a pretty tough side,” said Olson, who did not see any action against Portugal Nov. 6 in a game where the hosts scored a try in the dying minutes for the win. “They were good at keeping the ball in their hands and running a lot. It was a very rainy day so the conditions were tough.”
Olson was selected for a 2020 tour to Europe for games against England and Wales, but did not play.
Canada, who will miss rugby’s World Cup for the first time ever in 2023, having failed to qualify, is currently ranked 21st in the world. Portugal is No. 19.
The failure to qualify resulted in giving some new players like Olson a look with the national 15s team. Olson was picked for the tour due to his prowess with Canada’s men’s 7s squad, having earned a spot after a number of players retired following the 2021 (2020) Olympics in Tokyo. He was more than happy to be selected.
“I enjoy 15s,” he said. “Rugby 7s is a good opportunity to work on the skill set. The 15s have been in a rebuilding stage and the 7s brought me in as well. I prefer 15s but I’ll keep on trying and hope to break through with Canada men’s 7s.”
Canada’s Senior Men’s Sevens team return to action at the Emirates Dubai 7s on Friday, Dec. 3, for the second stop of the 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Olson was left off the squad having just returned from his stint with the 15s.
Canada will play the U.S., Australia and Kenya. The Maple Leaf squad finished 11th at the opening tour stop in Dubai, beating Japan 22-14 after losses to Spain, Australia, France and Fiji.
Olson hopes to be in the 7s lineup when Canada is the home nation for the tour stop Feb. 26 and 27 at Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium.
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