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International rugby game proceeding as planned

May 9, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Except for not being able to sell as many tickets as they would have liked, organizers are proceeding apace with plans for the international rugby game scheduled for June 8 at Richardson Stadium.

John Phelan, speaking for the local committee presenting the game on behalf of Rugby Canada, said his group is reasonably happy with the outcome of discussions with Queen’s University, after an engineer’s report released last week revealed the upper stands at the stadium were structurally unsafe.

That means about 60 per cent of the stadium’s 10,000-seat capacity is now unusable.

“Kingston has proved itself to be a great community in hosting and enjoying rugby,” said Phelan, a professor in the School of Business at Queen’s and a former national team captain.

“It’s another international event for us and it can’t be bad for our community. We wish that maybe there had been more due diligence on behalf of Queen’s in checking the stadium a little bit earlier. That might have helped.”

Last summer, about 6,000 spectators gathered at Richardson Stadium to watch the national teams from Canada and the U.S. play. Phelan said organizers were hoping to build on that this time and perhaps attract a larger crowd for the Pacific Nations Cup game between Canada and Tonga.

Instead, he said capacity for the game will be about 4,000.

Though a geographic and demographic mismatch, the game promises to be a good one. Tonga has established itself as respectable on the international stage, with a World Cup win over France and an exhibition victory over Scotland in the last two years.

Canada and Tonga met in the first round of the last World Cup tournament and Canada staged a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

“It was a heck of a rugby game,” Phelan said. “It was a high level game, really well played. I suspect we’ll see the same level of game.”

About 3,700 seats remain usable at the stadium. Phelan says Queen’s will allow standees in the south end zone.

“Queen’s has said that we can use the lower sections,” he said. “The upper sections are off limits.”

The laws of supply and demand will not enter the equation, Phelan said. Prices won’t be rising to reflect the new scarcity of tickets.

Part of the upper level of stands on the west side of the stadium is the press box, used not only for media but the public address announcer and other ancillary functions. The European channel Sky TV is broadcasting all the games in the Pacific Nations Cup series and Phelan said a limited number of people to have access to the press box.

“We don’t know the number yet,” he said. “We just know there will be some.”

Phelan said the initial reaction to the news of the stadium problems “was pretty tragic, to tell you the truth.”

“We didn’t know if, indeed, we would even have a stadium, and then, of course, with all the materials printed, tickets sold, to try and move it with basically a month to go would be impossible.”

After the series begins in Edmonton with a game against the U.S. May 25, the national team will be arriving May 27 and will be based in Kingston for the duration of the tournament. The Canadians will also play in Ottawa June 5, against Fiji.

While in Kingston, the team will practise at Royal Military College and members of the team will also conduct a clinic for local youth players.

Phelan remains optimistic the game will be well attended. He said the International Rugby Board instituted the Pacific Nations Cup to get Canada, the U.S. and the island teams — Tonga, Fiji and Japan — more top calibre games because it sees these five teams are on the verge of going to the next level and becoming Tier I nations in the sport.

Besides, he said, there’s an exotic element that can’t be ignored.

“I mean, how often does (anyone from) Tonga come to Kingston?”

 

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