SPORTS

Well-travelled fly half Ander Monro appreciates new lease on life in Canada

09/17/2011 04:15 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST
Canada can thank the British army for fly half Ander Monro.

The stylish 30-year-old was born in Toronto to a British army officer deployed in Canada. Monro was just a toddler when the family left but rugby brought him back to Canada from Scotland.

"I really didn't think it would lead me to where it has," Monro said of his rugby road.

"Moving over to Canada has been a great experience," he added.

He first played for Canada in 2006 and moved to Victoria two years ago with English wife Jemima — whom he met at the University of Edinburgh. Son Hector arrived soon after — "a second-generation Canadian Monro," dad says proudly.

And the former Scottish junior international player wears No. 10 at his second Rugby World Cup playing for Canada.

The Canadian men, ranked 14th in the world, play No. 5 France on Sunday — hoping to build off a rousing 25-20 opening win Wednesday over No. 12 Tonga in Whangarei.

"We feel like we hopefully can take a bit of momentum into this game," said Monro. "Everyone's in a really positive mood from the Tonga win, but obviously appreciative of the fact that we're playing France, who are a bloody good team."

Canada beat a second-string French side 33-27 at last year's Churchill Cup but will be facing a vastly beefed up France in Napier.

The French have made 11 changes from the starting lineup that beat Japan 47-21. Canada sticks with the same team that took down Tonga.

"A few of the boys are sore, as they always are," said Monro, referring to the four-day turnaround.

But he says they have done it before without problem, which is good news since they will have to do it again at this tournament for their final Pool A games against Japan and New Zealand.

At five-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Monro is a relative rugby shrimp.

"There are some huge guys these days and every season they seem to get bigger," he said wistfully.

Desptie his size, Monro has no qualms about flinging himself at whoever is coming at him. Still, Canada has him defend in the outside centre position — yielding his place nearer the scrum to a bigger teammate who has the responsibility of stopping rampaging forwards or big backs coming his way.

Tonga had no shortage of both, with Canada beating them back with "some huge tackles."

"It was enjoyable to watch from where I was in the slightly wider channels," Monro said with a slight chuckle, "when they were trying to come round the edges and just getting smashed by (Canadian) guys."

But he says he is stronger and faster than when he weighed a little more a few years ago.

New Zealand's well-educated rugby fans have got behind the team, drawn by Canada's play and — in no small part — by the beloved beards of Adam Kleeberger, Hubert Buydens and Jebb Sinclair.

"Everyone seems to have definitely got behind the beards in a big way as well," Monro said. "The team in general seems to be receiving quite a few good vibes. People really stopped and wanted to talk to us on the street the next day and just tell us how impressed they were with our attitude and how we applied ourselves in the game.

"It's really good to hear that. It's a bit of a reward for all the hard work and the sacrifices that the players make. it's been a really good welcome from New Zealand."

Monro himself has more than rugby on his mind.

In New Zealand, he has spent what little off time he has reviewing his university schedule. While he has degree in geography from his Scottish days, he is pursuing a teaching degree at the University of Victoria.

Aside from Canada, the Monros also spent time in Australia, England, Germany, Italy and Northern Ireland. But they always kept a base in Scotland and Ander went to Glenalmond College, a Scottish boarding school, joining his parents on holiday wherever they were.

He has fond memories of those school days and hopes to return to that environment as a teacher.

Today Monro's parents live in Murrayshire and both his brothers live in London.

His father and younger brother plans to come out to the tournament to take in several Canada and Scotland game.

Monro's real first name is Alexander but his older brother could never pronounce it as a child — it came out as Ander, which stuck.

His accent is more English than Scottish but he found his rugby home in Canada.

Monro had played age-group rugby for Scotland but turned to Rugby Canada when his international career there stalled. He was playing for the Edinburgh Gunners when he sent Canadian team officials a video of himself in action.

Rugby Canada consulted with Gunners teammate Mike Pyke, a former Canadian international who went on to play Aussie Rules Football, and other coaches before inviting Monro into the fold.

He went on to play club rugby in Italy for Colorno before electing to move to Victoria, where many of the domestic-based Canadians make their home.

He loved playing in Italy, but says the move to Canada was a "life decision."

The family of Canadian scrum half Ed Fairhurst did their bit to ease the transition. Fairhurst's parents put Monro and his wife up for a month in Victoria while they found a home and settled in.

A talented kicker, Monro also serves as a backup boot for Canada, which normally looks to fullback James Pritchard for penalties and conversions.

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