SPORTS

Saskatoon prop Hubert Buydens to lead Canada on European rugby tour

10/30/2014 05:47 EDT | Updated 12/30/2014 05:59 EST
It's been quite a run of late for Canadian rugby international Hubert Buydens.

Last Friday in New Zealand, the 32-year-old prop from Saskatoon helped the Manawatu Tubos earn promotion with a 32-24 win over Hawke's Bay in the NPC Championship final.

On Sunday, Buydens will captain a Canada XV against an RFU Championship XV in Worcester, England.

The game against an all-star squad from England's second-tier league is the first of four for Canada on its November tour of Europe.

Canadian coach Kieran Crowley's squad will be reinforced for the remaining games on the tour, which fall within the International Rugby Board's Test window unlike Sunday's contest. Canada, ranked 17th in the world, will meet No. 22 Namibia in Colwyn Bay, Wales, on Nov. 7, No. 9 Samoa in Vannes, France, on Nov. 14, and No. 16 Romania in Bucharest on Nov. 22.

Samoa, Namibia and Romania will join Canada at next year's World Cup, with Canada and Romania both featuring in Pool D, alongside France, Ireland and Italy.

Buydens has been named captain for the entire tour. Skipper Tyler Ardron, who plays for the Ospreys in Wales, is recovering from an injury and will be joining the team later in the tour.

Buydens also captained Canada in a 52-8 win over Portugal last November.

"It was a bit of a surprise when they told me I was going to be captaining," he said of this tour. "But it's always a great honour. I'll try and do my best."

The Canada tour has reunited Buydens, a loosehead prop, with Jason Marshall, a 29-year-old tighthead prop from North Vancouver.

Amazingly the two Canucks found themselves facing off in the New Zealand final, with Marshall starting for Hawke's Bay.

The two props, who both go under the nickname Moose in New Zealand, came to rugby from a football background. Buydens, a former offensive lineman with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, had a tryout with the B.C. Lions while Marshall played quarterback for Simon Fraser and tried out for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Buydens had the last laugh in last week's New Zealand final. Not only did his team win, but he and the Manawatu pack earned a memorable penalty on one scrum that saw Marshall propelled upwards like a rocket.

"That one definitely felt pretty good," Buydens said with a chuckle. "He's taking a bit of guff from the boys that he was on the losing end of that one."

Despite a gruelling campaign in New Zealand, Buydens says his body is feeling good.

"My body came through A-OK," he said. "Everything that should hurt or normally does hurt does hurt and everything that shouldn't doesn't, so it's all good that way."

Buydens says he will have to miss out on Manawatu next year given preparations for the World Cup, which runs Sept. 18 to Oct. 31 in England and Wales.

"It is a little disappointing that way but definitely playing for Canada is the priority," he said.

Buydens expects to return to Saskatoon after the tour and spend Christmas at home. He will then look to play overseas or, barring that, settle in Victoria.

Buydens enjoyed his second season in New Zealand, living in Palmerston North where rugby players do not go unnoticed.

"It's a beautiful place," he said. "Everyone knows who you are ... people stop you in the street, talk to you about rugby , how you're doing and how the team's doing."

At six foot three and 275 pounds with a healthy beard — he was one of Canada's famed beardos at the last World Cup — Buydens is hard to miss.

"I stick out a little bit, yeah," he said.

Canada is looking to step it up on tour after going 0-3 in June against Japan, Scotland and the U.S. A domestic Canada 'A' side also disappointed in finishing third at the Americas Rugby Championship earlier this month.

Worcester Warriors lock James Percival will captain the RFU Championship side.

"A lot of the Canadian boys play in that league so it will be good to measure ourselves against them and hopefully get one up on them," Buydens said.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.

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