Twelve men’s teams and seven women’s teams will arrive in full force this weekend when the 33rd annual Stampede Rugby Tournament hits the pitch at Ottoman Drive.
On the men’s side Abbotsford, Capilano, the Cariboo Selects, Chilliwack, Courtney, Flatliners (Richmond), Langley, Meralomas (Vancouver), Surrey, Prince George/SFU, Williams Lake and the Young Bucks will vie for the coveted Stampede tournament title.
On the women’s side it will be the defending champion Williams Lake Hustlers joining Abbotsford, Capilano, Douglas College, Kamloops, Prince George and SFU for the two-day event, which begins Saturday and wraps up Sunday afternoon with finals.
In addition three old boys teams — Abbotsford, Bayside and Williams Lake — will be in action.
Todd Pritchard, member of the Williams Lake Rustlers, said this year’s tournament will feature some fantastic rugby.
“The favourites on the men’s side has to be the Young Bucks and Capilano,” Pritchard said. “The Young Bucks have won the tournament three years running but will be pressed this year as the rugby should be very high calibre. There are no weak teams this year.”
Pritchard added the Rustlers will field a formidable squad, too, featuring several players returning to the lakecity to play in the tournament.
“We’ll be tough to beat this year,” he said. “Brendon Pritchard, Nathan Stewart and Riley Ilnicki are coming back from stellar seasons on Vancouver Island.”
Jake Ilnicki, who just wrapped up captaining the Canadian U20 national team in Salt Lake City, will also join the Williams Lake squad.
For the women, the Hustlers will be vying for their third straight Stampede Rugby title.
Canadian National Team member Kayla Moleschi will lead this year’s squad, along with returning players Claire Lawrence and last year’s MVP, Jasmyn Niquidet.
“The old boys division looks to be very tight but Williams Lake will have the most depth and that could play an important factor,” Pritchard added.
The rugby gets under way both days at 9 a.m., wrapping up by 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.