History of the Churchill Cup

The Churchill Cup event, named after former British Prime Minster Winston Churchill, “Britain’s Man of the Century”, sees a five-year agreement amongst England, Canada and the USA with each forming part of the new company, “Churchill Cup Inc.”. Former Prime Minster Churchill shared close ties with the United States – his mother was American – and with Canada during the Second World War, so using his name for this event seemed very appropriate.

Born of an English tour of North America in 2001, the Churchill Cup of Rugby came to fruition last yearin 2003 in Vancouver. The tournament arises out of a 5 year agreement between Rugby Canada, Rugby USA and the Rugby Football Union (England) to hold an annual rugby tournament in North America originally intended to be played between the nations Senior Men’s and Women’s sides. Canada will hosted the event from 2003 to 2005in 2003 and 2004 and will again host the event in 2005 in Edmonton, Alberta. While and the US will have the option of picking uphosting the last 2 years of the tournament in 2006 and 2007, with the advent of the USA Sevens in Los Angeles and the reality of moving such an event, it is entirely likely that the event will remain in Canada, specifically Edmonton, through 2007. With respect to the Women’s component, with Canada being awarded the 2006 Women’s World Cup of Rugby, to be played in Edmonton and the Ottawa/Montreal region, it was felt that for 2005 and 2006 the Women’s component should be removed, with the Women playing in the Canada Cup of Women’s Rugby in Ottawa/Montreal in July of 2005 and the Women’s World Cup itself in September of 2006 in Edmonton and Ottawa/Montreal.

In addition to the changes with respect to the Women’s component, in 2004 the decision was made to expand the competition to 4 Nations with the inclusion of an invitational side, which in 2004 was the New Zealand Maori, who won the title in a spectacular overtime match with England. In 2005 Argentina have been selected as the invitation side, which should provide great entertainment for the fans and a true test of rugby for the founding Nations in the Churchill Cup. Beyond 2005 there is talk of further expanding the event to perhaps 6 Nations, with 3 invitational sides participating.

North American rugby has often despaired in the lack of high quality competition on this continent. As other countries participate in the annual Tri-Nations or Six Nations tournaments, Canada and the US are left to schedule one off invitational games with other Nations, subject to other nations being able to accommodate such games in their schedules. In the Men’s competition, the middle-power Canadian and American sides can test their mettle against some of the best players England has to offer, and now New Zealand and Argentina with the inclusion of an invitational side. The competition also allows England to develop players who do not regularly participate in the national squad.

The 2003 inaugural tournament was played in Vancouver at Thunderbird Stadium. The 2004 Churchill Cup traveled east across the Canadian Rockies to Alberta where games were played in Calgary on the opening weekend and Edmonton for the finals . For 2005 the Churchill Cup will in its entirety be played at Edmonton’s 65,000 seat Commonwealth Stadium, with the same contemplated for 2006 and 2007.

Churchill Cup Trophy

Churchill Cup 2003 – Vancouver, British Columbia CANADA

Churchill Cup 2004 – Calgary/Edmonton, Alberta CANADA

Churchill Cup 2005 – Edmonton, Alberta CANADAFor the 2005 Churchill Cup Argentina will play the USA to open the tournament on the first Sunday, June 19th, immediately followed by Canada versus England. The following Sunday, June 26th, the finals will be played, with the Consolation Final opening up the days games, followed by the Final. In addition to the Churchill Cup games a number of events will be taking place around the competition, chief among them being Youth clinics on both Saturday the 18th and 25th, a State of the Game conference on June 23rd, 24th and 25th, blending the traditional components of a Referee’s Workshop and a Coaches Workshop into one combined event, and as well a gala dinner on Tuesday, June 21st, the longest day of the year.

Sunday 19th June 2005, Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton

USA 30
Tries: Wyatt, MacDonald, Viloen
Conversions: Viljoen (3)
Penalties: Viljoen (3)
Argentina 34
Tries: Albina, Henn, Leonelli (2), Avramovic
Conversions: Fernandez (3)
Penalties: Fernandez
Team: Francois Viljoen, Mike Palefau, Paul Emerick, Scott Jones, David Fee, Mike Hercus, Kimball Kjar, Michael MacDonald, Matt Wyatt, Jacob Waasdorp, James Lik, Michael Mangan, Todd Clever, Tony Petruzzella, Kort Schubert (captain)Subs: Mike Hobson, Mike French, Matt Kane, Jon Hartman, David Williams, Matt Sherman, Jason PyeTeam: Francisco Bosch, Francisco Leonelli, Jose Orengo, Miguel Avramovic, Pablo Gomez Cora, Juan Miranda Fernandez, Matias Albina (captain), Pablo Henn, Agustin Costa Repetto, Francisco Lecot, Santiago Artese, Jaime Arocena, Simon Boffelli, Alvaro Galindo, Augusto PetrilliSubs: Sebastinan Rondinelli, Leopoldo De Chazal, Gaston Llanos, Genaro Fessia, Lucio Lopez, Rafael Carballo, Juanmartin Berberian
Canada 5
Try: Carpenter
England 29
Tries: Sackey, Vesty, Voyce, Simpson-Daniel, Sanderson
Conversions: Goode (2)
Team: Daypuck, Witowski K, King, Cannon, Richmond, Smith, Weingart, Pletch, Abrams, Gainer, Tait, Yukes, Webb (Captain), McKeen, CarpenterReplacements: Densmore, Exner, Dunning, Burak, Stephen, Fairhurst, Witkowski NTeam: Vesty, Sackey, Simpson-Daniel, Bell, Monye, Goode, Gomarsall, Freshwater, Chuter, Turner, Deacon, Palmer, Jones, Sanderson,   Dowson.
Replacements used: Mears for Chuter, Morris for Turner, Forrester for Dowson, Erinle for Monye, Richards for Gomarsall, Voyce for Vesty.

Sunday 26th June 2005, Commonwealth Games, Edmonton
Consolation Final

Try: Aaron Carpenter
Conversions: Ed Fairhurst
Penalties: Fairhurst (4)
USA 20
Tries – Mike Palefau, MattWyatt
Conversions – Mike Hercus (2)
Penalties – Hercus (2)
Team: Stirling Richmond, Nik Witowski, Matt King, John Cannon, David Moonlight, Ed Fairhurst, Matt Weingart, Casey Dunning, Aaron Abrams, Forrest Gainer, Josh Jackson, Mike Burak, Mike Webb (captain), Colin Yukes, Aaron CarpenterSubs: Peter Densmore, Iain Exner, Sean-MichaelStephen, Mike Pletch, Pat Fleck, Simon Rogers, Ryan SmithReferee: Rob Debney (RFU)Team: Francois Viljoen, Mike Palefau, Paul Emerick, Scott Jones, David Fee, MikeHercus, Kimball Kjar, Michael MacDonald, Matt Wyatt, Jacob Waasdorp, James Lik, Michael Mangan, Todd Clever, Tony Petruzzella, Kort Schubert(captain)Subs: Mike Hobson, Mike French, Matt Kane, Jon Hartman, David Williams, Matt Sherman, Jason Pye

Churchill Cup Final

England 45
Try: Simpson-Daniel, Voyce (2),Sackey, Gomarsall
Conversions: Goode 3, Gomarsall
Penalties Goode: 3, Richards1
Argentina 16
Tries: Avramovic
Conversions: 1
Penalties: 2
Drop goal: 1
Team: Voyce, Sackey, Simpson-Daniel, Bell, Tait, Goode, Richards,Freshwater, Mears, Turner, Deacon, Palmer, Jones, Sanderson, DowsonReplacements used: Chuter for Mears, Shelley forFreshwater, Hooper for Deacon, Forrester for Jones, Gomarsall for Richards, Erinle for Tait, Higgins for BellReferee Craig Joubert(SA)Team: Bosch, Carbello, Avramovic, Orengo, Gomez Cora, Fernandez, Albina, Henn, Costa Repetto, Lecot, Artese, Llanos, Galindo, Petrilli, BouzaReplacements: Rondinelli, Boffelli, De Chazal,Fessia, Fleming, Berberian, Pichot

2005 Leading Try ScorersTom Voyce (England) 3
James Simpson-Daniel (England) 2
Paul Sackey (England) 2
Aaron Carpenter (Canada) 2
Matt Wyatt (USA) 2
Francisco Leonelli (Argentina) 2

England: Sackey (2),Vesty (1), Voyce (3), Simpson-Daniel (2), Sanderson (1), Gomarsall(1)
Canada:Carpenter (2)
USA: Wyatt (2), MacDonald (1), Viloen (1), Palefau (1)
Argentina: Albina (1), Henn (1), Leonelli (2), Avramovic (2)

2005 Leading Points Scorers
Tom Voyce (England) 15
Ed Fairhurst (Canada)14
Andy Goode (England)10
Paul Sackey (England)10
James Simpson-Daniel (England) 10
Francisco Leonelli (Argentina)10
Francois Viljoen (USA) 9

Rugby’s History in Edmonton

Left hidden in the City of Edmonton is the presence that the sport of rugby once had here.   Over a century ago the first organized Edmonton football club was formed.   Soon after in the same year of 1891 the first two games between Edmonton and Calgary were played, with one game in each city.   They split the games with each winning at home, and the “Battle of Alberta” was born.   In fact this meeting on the rugby pitch happened a number of years before it did on the ice rink.  

Rugby games would often attract 500 people, which is pretty exceptional when considering Edmonton’s population had not even eclipsed the 2000 mark.   To put that in perspective, one-quarter of Edmonton’s population would attend these games.  

A strong rivalry was also held between Strathcona and Edmonton.   At the time a recent railway extension from the south did not cross the North Saskatchewan River, and this upset Edmontonians.   Since Strathcona was south of the river they received most of the benefits and prosperity from the new line.   This sheer difference assisted in creating a bitter rivalry between their respective rugby teams. The hastiness of this rivalry was displayed at one point when the Strathcona team played 3 players short.   Which was extremely uncommon since it was an accepted gesture to even up the teams if one was short.  

Rugby had an incredible amount of influence on the sport of football.   In the early 1900’s teams representing both sports would actually compete against each other.   Due to the lack of teams and their need for competition, games between the two became necessary.   Considering the immense similarities between the sports it made these games even more plausible.  

During this time there were two views; the first were staunch supporters of the traditional game of rugby, as it was played in England, and the second were supporters of Eastern Canadian game.   It eventually manifested itself into Eastern Canada versus Edmonton, as we quite enjoyed the game in its original form.  

One of the Edmonton players interviewed by a reporter in 1907 stated, “the game as played under English rules was the most popular in Edmonton and that it would be impossible to put a team on the field under any other conditions”.   Amongst Edmonton’s support and reverence for the English game was the opportunity to see world-class teams such as Australia and New Zealand.

If you were to look at the evolution of football in Canada you would notice many teams didn’t draw an obvious distinction between the two sports.   For instance the first year the University of Alberta’s football program came into existence the team was called the UofA Golden Bears Rugby Football Club.   Many things have changed since those days, yet the impact rugby had on the game of Canadian football is something that should never be overlooked.  

The sport of rugby never officially died out, as there are still a number of clubs around the city.   Not forgetting to mention the presence of an international tournament in the Churchill Cup, which will once again be played in June of this upcoming summer.  

It’s ironic that a century later the City of Edmonton gets the opportunity to see the world-class rugby it was asking for, so get your tickets for 2006 and take parts in the remarkable history of rugby in the City of Champions.  (Reference courtesy: A History of Rugby Football in Edmonton, by Paddy Lamb).