ALMA — A local rugby player has joined some choice company.
Tyler Matchem has been chosen for Rugby Canada’s men’s under-18 team that will compete in a series of matches in California over the holidays.
“It’s really exciting, lots of emotion,” he said. “I’m eager to go down there and play.”
Matchem, who is 16 and plays rugby for the Northumberland Nighthawks, is the only Nova Scotian and one of just two Maritimers on the roster. It will be split into Canada Red and Canada White sides to contest matches on December 28 against USA Blue and USA White teams at a training centre in San Diego.
The Canadians will also play on January 3 during a world youth festival in Los Angeles.
“The U-18 level is a critical step in exposing players to the demands of international rugby,” head coach Mike Curran said in a Rugby Canada press release announcing the roster. “Players will be tested in the way they prepare, play, and review.”
“Throughout this tour, players will be asked to play the game at greater speed and under greater pressure,” he added. “We want to facilitate the growth of these players under greater pressure than they have seen in the past. Being creative is the primary theme.”
Besides his high school rugby, Matchem is a product of the Rugby Nova Scotia Keltics program. He plays mainly in the front row but will be used as a hook during the trip.
Matchem started playing rugby for coaches John Rushton and Bryan Campbell in Grade 9.
“They’re really supportive,” he said. “I couldn’t ask anything else of them.”
Matchem joined tryouts last summer at Acadia University in Wolfville after being scouted at an Atlantic age group tournament in P.E.I.
Part of Matchem’s preparation has included working out with members of the Pictou County Senior Rugby Club’s two division teams.
“I’ve practised with them,” he said. “There are a lot of good players and they’re really nice guys.”
Matchem trains at home and at the Pictou County YMCA.
“Keeping my skills up is really important,” he said. “Rugby is a physical sport. Conditioning and being really fit is very important. There are a lot of skills.”
Tyler Matchem stands in front of the sculpture outside the Pictou County Wellness Centre. (Goodwin photo)