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Burnaby fans show their support for international rugby

More than 3,400 fans braved a chilly and damp Saturday night in February to demonstrate their enthusiasm for international sport in Burnaby.

It was Canada versus the USA on February 18 at Swangard Stadium in a key match of the America’s Rugby Championship – a month-long series of games which began on February 3. The games are taking place in locations in North and South America involving six teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, USA and Uruguay to determine the top national rugby squad across two continents.

“It’s really wonderful for Burnaby,” said The Honourable Carla Qualtrough Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. “Burnaby has a great fan base. It’s a really sporting community. You can just tell by the energy in the stadium. Families are here and it’s an affordable event.”

Despite the 51-34 loss to Team USA, Team Canada Captain Ray Barkwill said the players were pumped by the local support. “For a nice cold night in February, the crowd is fantastic. I love Burnaby. It’s always been a great place to come.”

For Team Canada’s Admir Cejvanovic, who grew up in Burnaby, losing in front of a hometown crowd was disappointing. “They really supported us and cheered us on and helped us get out of that hole that we put ourselves into in the first five minutes of the game. I tried my best, but at the end of the day, we still lost.”

Canadian fans weren’t the only ones waving flags and cheering in the stands. Groups of American supporters also made some noise that didn’t go unnoticed by Todd Clever, captain of Team USA. “There was a good chunk of them. I don’t know if they drove up or are living here,” he said. “It’s always a hostile environment coming to Canada, but you’ve just got to feed off of it and take that good energy and stick to your game plan.”

The Minister of Sport summed up the impact of such sport events on a community. “I am a big fan of sport hosting. It’s a really important part of our sport development and part of strategy around sport tourism,” added Qualtrough. “A shout out for Burnaby, well done Burnaby, you made us proud!”

Saturday’s game was the final meeting between Canada and the United States before their pivotal Rugby World Cup qualifier later this year. Canada returns to action on February 25 for a game in South America against Uruguay.

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