Celebrating the incredible women in Canadian Rugby on International Women's Day

International Women's Day - celebrating Canadian women in rugby
A moment to reflect on three incredible leaders in rugby in Canada - Ngalula Fuamba, Karen Paquin & Brittany Kassil (L to R)

On International Women's Day we want to take a moment to share our gratitude for the incredible women of Rugby Canada's Womens XV team. If playing at the highest level wasn't impressive enough, Karen Paquin, Ngalula Fuamba & Brittany Kassil are all working to grow the game through leadership positions in their respective clubs, through coaching, and through initiatives to encourage ALL girls and women to pick up a rugby ball. 

All three women played for Canada in the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last year and were part of the team that truly was the story of the tournament. 

 The Canadian Women’s team made an unforgettable impact on rugby last November in New Zealand. The global rugby family was buzzing about Canada vs. The Roses as we all sat on the edge of our seats watching the amateur Canadians led by Captain Sophie De Goede - who recently graduated from Queens University - take on undefeated England led by Sarah Hunter - a professional player who has been playing on the national team since 2007 (when Sophie was just 8 years old!). This match was to be a predictable step on England’s path the finals, but was anything but, with Canada pushing England much of the match.

(in case you missed it check out the highlight reel here - it should come with a goosebumps warning!)

It is a match that will be talked about for years, leaving impressions on the future generations of rugby players.

Canada did not win the World Cup, but that performance has also prompted many in the Canadian rugby community (as well as fans around the world) to ask - how much would it cost to bring home gold? Canada does so much RIGHT in rugby. Our women’s and men’s team athletes receive equal pay for playing (which depends on if they play 15s or 7s and how many matches and training camps they attend). This is likely unique in rugby across the world, and something to be proud of. But to attend a centralized training camp in advance to the RWC 2021 the women created their own “Go Fund Me” page to crowd fund this. The financial circumstance also had athletes billeting at family homes to offset living expenses.

In researching the salaries of other teams in women’s rugby we found some varying amounts for what the actual salaries are, but it is clear that England as well as many other top rugby countries have fully professional women’s teams. This means that these athletes in a RWC lead up can focus on their training, not needing to hold down part time jobs, or take sabbaticals from "day job’s" to focus on training.

Imagine the mindset of an athlete who has been couch surfing with friends, worrying about how much they can spend on groceries, and just generally needing to rely on support from family or their parter in order to compete going up against a team of professionals who are focused on training at the highest level without these stresses - it is a David and Goliath story for modern day sport. This makes the Canadian women all the more amazing. They went to win and it showed.

Canadian Women’s Coach Kevin Rouet couldn’t be prouder of the team and their outcome.
“In other unions, the girls are paid to be there. In Canada, we are not in this situation at all, even though we are highly ranked as a country. If you look at the top 10 in the world, we must be one of the smallest budgets… So, the value of sacrifice, the value of work are all the more important. On the contrary, it is an additional motivation to say to ourselves that there are perhaps federations that are more fortunate than us, but we are a working country, we are a country that knows the value of sacrifice… And then you can see it when they train. When you have left your job and you lose money to come here, you know why you are here. It can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage, it can be both. But for us, we take it as an advantage in the end not to have everything easy…In addition, these last few months, I've asked a lot from them, like never before. It was complicated because they had to get along with their work. We have girls in the team who work, who are not full-time players. So obviously, it's always a bit complicated. We have players who have left their jobs anyway or were on a sabbatical leave to go to Rugby World Cup 2021.”
You can read the full RWC article here

Knowing that the Canadian Women face more obstacles than most professional sports teams, is makes what they made happen in 2021 Rugby World Cup that much more impressive. Gilbert Rugby Canada is proud to work alongside many of these phenomenal women, who are not only CHAMPIONS on the pitch, but also championing the game through leadership, coaching and building the sport for future generations of girls and women. 

 Finally.... if you need a little injection of excitement...
We can't get tired of watching and re-watching Karen's INSANE try at RWC 2021
At Gilbert Rugby Canada we work to support girls and women in rugby and proudly ensure that all our partnerships require equal support of women's and men's teams. We are also proud to support U Sport rugby in Canada since its inception, with the Monilex Cup

You never know where a rugby ball will take you - outreach adventures in rugby & in life.

You never know where a rugby ball will take you - outreach adventures in rugby & in life.

To start the new year here at Gilbert Rugby Canada we hear from 2022 Gilbert Champion Sofia Brussoni as she recounts her experience travelling to Nicaragua in May of 2022 to play rugby and participate in a social outreach program with the Dog River Howlers. Our goal with #GilbertChampions is to highlight folks in Canada helping to #GrowTheGame and Sofia is a shining example of this right here in Canada, and abroad. To learn more about The Dog River Howlers and their outreach trip, click on the links at the bottom. 
“It’s more than a game, it’s a way of life” - Dog River Howlers Motto 
This was my second time touring to the beautiful country of Nicaragua with the Dog River Howlers, a rugby club based in Saskatchewan with an emphasis in growing the game around the world. We are each asked to bring as many donations as we can on tour, including medical supplies, school supplies, and rugby equipment.
Starting the first few days of the tour in the beautiful San Juan del Sur at the magnificent Rock Resort, we spent our days beside the ocean. Having rugby practices on the beach, getting to know our awesome group of players and support staff, and spending time in paradise!
We got the opportunity to go to local villages and see their way of living. It is truly an eye-opening experience and makes me thankful for all the little things in my life. The local medical clinic we visited to was incredibly small, and very far away from the nearest hospital. Since the huge hurricane that hit Nicaragua last year, they have been very short on important supplies, and have had to build back up for entire communities. We visited two local schools in our time there, and brought them tons of school supplies, games, and sporting equipment. The kids were so excited to get brand new supplies and we got the chance to show them a few fun parts about rugby – their favourite was being lifted in lineouts!
Teaching lineouts to the students in Nicaragua
Later in the week, we hosted a training session for local children to try rugby, and then after, any men and women who wanted to try training with us. The next day we were hosted by the local Tola Rugby Club, who our men’s and women’s team each played an Ultra 7’s game against, followed by a great barbecue where we spent time with the teams! The Tola teams were gifted brand new Gilbert rugby balls and drawstring bags and were so thankful to be able to share this with their club.
We spent the next day travelling and sightseeing all the way to the beautiful city of Granada, where the tournament would be hosted later in the week. We had the opportunity to represent Canada in this tournament, and played against the national teams of Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The Granada 7s tournament was an incredibly lively event, with live music, fields filled with rugby games, and lots of other entertainment! The other teams were competitive, especially Costa Rica who narrowly placed second to both of our men’s and women’s teams in exciting matches.
This trip was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Being able to immerse in the Nicaraguan culture, support their local schools, hospitals, and communities, and of course play lots of rugby all in one! An opportunity to get to go to a country where rugby is still in development stages and get to share experiences and grow this beautiful game! This is exactly the reason for the Dog River Howlers motto, “It’s more than a game, it’s a way of life”.
Dogriver Howlers
Sofia Brussoni was a true all star Gilbert Champion in 2022 not only bringing outreach (and Gilbert rugby balls!)  to young people in Nicaragua, but also doing multiple instagram takeovers to share her adventures playing rugby across North America including a very exciting stint playing with the Loonies in the Premier Rugby Sevens 
To learn more about The Dog River Howlers visit their site here 
If you or someone you know is a true rugby champion - we are looking for 2023 Gilbert Champions 



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