Representing his country on home soil for the first time lasted all of 10 minutes for Coldstream’s Cameron Pierce.
The Kalamalka Secondary grad was playing his first international test match at home for Rugby Canada at Calgary’s Rugby Park against Russia when he injured his ankle.
“If you see it on TSN, I do something to the ankle, try to run it off then go down like someone snipered me from afar,” said Pierce, 24, from his parent’s home in Coldstream, where he’s now rehabilitating the Grade 2 ligament sprain.
“I still limped to do one more lineout, made a tackle on the maul and the same thing happened (to the ankle) so I knew I was done for the day.”
Canada won 46-21, evening their June test match series record at 1-1. Canada suffered a tough 26-22 loss to Japan at B.C. Place in Vancouver the weekend before, and finished the series Saturday in Toronto versus Italy.
It was Pierce’s fourth appearance with the senior men’s national squad. He made his debut in Japan in 2013, and wore the Maple Leaf in tests in February in Argentina and Chile.
“It was pretty great to finally play on home soil,” said Pierce. “The coach (Mark Anscombe) said ‘not to worry, it’s part of rugby’ (of the injury), and I will have other opportunities to play for him. So I am in good spirits.”
Pierce plays professionally with Section Paloise in France’s Rugby Union’s Top 14 (highest level of competition in France League system) in Pau, a city in southwestern France in the Pyrenees Mountains. He was one of 35 players selected to a national team camp at Shawnigan Lake School near Duncan on Vancouver Island for the summer test series.
Pierce made the test squad but was unable to play against Japan due to club responsibilities in France.
“To play in a test match you have to have been released from your pro club seven days prior,” said Pierce. “I played in France the Sunday before the match against Japan.”
Pierce, who played high school rugby for Ian Busfield at Kal, and club rugby with the Kelowna Crows, played in 15 of Section Paloise’s 30 games in his first pro year in Division 2 in 2014-15, and appeared in eight of 32 games this season for Section Paloise in the team’s first-ever appearance in the Top 14, considered by many to be the best rugby league in the world.
The club was promoted after finishing in the top-two in the 16-team Division 2, and avoided relegation back to the 16 this year by placing middle of the pack in the Top 14.
Pierce, a hulking 6-foot-7, 240-pound second row player, just signed a two-year contract extension with Section Paloise.
He’s been in France for five years.
He’s come a long way from his days at Kal, to club ball with the Crows, to university ball at the University of Victoria, to now playing against the best players in the world.
“To play in Cameron’s position (second row), you have to fulfil certain criteria. You can tick off all of the boxes with him,” said Mike Shelley, forwards coach with Canada’s senior men’s squad.
“He’s big, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s athletic, he’s aggressive. Rugby is a combat sport and Cameron likes to mix it up. And the fact he plays in France means he’s exposed to top-level rugby.”
Canada failed to get out of its preliminary round group at last year’s Rugby World Cup in England but Pierce is excited to be part of the team’s present and future.
“It was great for us to get the win (versus Russia), as a lot of the boys that weren’t part of the new ARC (Americas Rugby Championship) tournament in February haven’t got a win in two years so it was good motivation to turn a new leaf,” said Pierce.
“Kicking and penalties against us killed the game versus Japan but I am confident they will be able to do something special this weekend. It’s a great group of young players on the rise for Rugby Canada.”
Said Shelley: “Cameron’s going to be a big part of the future for us as we build toward the 2019 Rugby World Cup.”
Canada went 3-2 at the ARC, scoring wins over Chile, Brazil and Uruguay but losing to eventual champion Argentina and the U.S.
Canada is currently ranked 18th in the world.