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Americas Nines Tournament looks to showcase offshoot of rugby league

TORONTO — Lamport Stadium has become a haven for both rugby league and union in Toronto of late, hosting both the Wolfpack and Arrows.

On Saturday, Lamport will host a different form of rugby league in the inaugural Americas Nines Tournament with Canada taking on the U.S., Jamaica and an "Emerging Nations" side dubbed Latin Heat.

Nines is to rugby league what sevens is to rugby union. It's played with nine players on each side over two nine-minute halves.

For Canada Wolverines coach Ben Fleming, it's a rare chance to get his players — at least some of them — together.

"It's always challenging at the best of times to get together with players," said Fleming, who drew talent from Canada, Australia, England and New Zealand for World Cup qualifying games last November.

"When tournaments come along and games come along, then it's great to get the squad back together. They're always rejuvenated when they get back together."

Canada captain Eddie Bilborough is one of five returning players from the Wolverines squad that missed out on World Cup qualifying. The others are Emil Borggren, Scyler Dumas, Michael Mastroianni and Jason Park.

Lack of funds has prevented Fleming from bringing in players based overseas. 

Like sevens, fewer players means more space with teams looking to get the ball to speedsters.

"It will be full of fitter and faster individuals," said Fleming.

The hope is the tournament will showcase continental talent and open more doors to the sport.

Jamaica defeated Canada 38-8 and the U.S. 16-10 in the Americans Rugby League World Cup qualifying tournament — featuring the 13-man version of the game — last November in Jacksonville.

"America is probably the team to beat," said Fleming, who played for the Wolverines himself. "They have a couple of players that have played at a high level overseas."

Jamaica will also feature some speedsters.

But he also likes what he sees in his side.

"We've just got to play the right footie. We've tried to prepare as accordingly as possible with the hurdles that we have in front of us. The team does look pretty sharp."

The tournament is a round-robin format with the top two playing off for the title.


Wolverines Roster

David Astley, Scyler Dumas, Jason Park, Ray Bissonette, Steve Piatek, Michael Mastroianni, Danny Tupou Kaloudonu, Nick Hails, Emil Borggren, Mikkel Borggren, Steven Adu, Ethan Langs, Andrew Porter, Eddie Bilborough, Andrew Giguere, Charles Curran, Tony Felix.


Kyle Yurkiw, Jonah Bachtiar.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press