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Webb Ellis Cup comes to Canada as part of Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour

04/02/2015 05:14 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Al Charron, who exited the 2003 Rugby World Cup on his shield, smiled Thursday as he posed with the Webb Ellis Cup.

It was a perhaps a little bittersweet for the former Canadian rugby captain.

"I wish I could have won it," said the six-foot-five Charron, who went to four World Cups as a player and one as a member of Canada's team management.

"It was a pleasure and a treat to play in the World Cup, but you want to win," he added. "The reality is we were never really strong contenders but we gave it our best."

The glittering trophy is in Canada this week on the last stop of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour outside of Europe. It wraps up its short visit in Vancouver on Saturday.

The cup has already visited Argentina, Australia, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Romania, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and the United States.

Only France and Germany remain before the trophy embarks on a 100-day tour of the United Kingdom. The 20-team tournament kicks off Sept. 18 in England.

Charron gave his all for Canada at the World Cup.

He was stretchered off in his final tournament, felled by a savage hit from 227-pound Tongan fly half Pierre Hola in 2003. Charron was unconscious before he hit the turf in Wollongong, Australia, his face a bloody mess and neck splayed at an angle.

After getting 16 stitches in his lower lip and gums, Charron got a standing ovation as he walked gingerly back into the team hotel later that night.

Twelve years later, he dwarfed pint-sized youth members of the Toronto Nomads rugby club as they posed beside the cup on a playing field at St. Michael's College School.

"It's cool to see the trophy and seeing kids and people excited about it," said Charron. "It's the third-biggest sporting event in the world and I was proud to be part of it."

David Paull, a press officer for tournament organizer England Rugby 2015, has accompanied the trophy on eight stops on the tour.

He has seen fans interact with the cup from Madagascar to Shanghai.

"This is the real trophy, which people often find it hard to believe," said Paull who donned white gloves to take the cup out of its case and assemble it. "But it's a very inspirational sight.

"That is one of the beautiful things about the trophy tour is that people come and think well that surely can't be the real one, but it is."

The 38-centimetre trophy is named after William Webb Ellis, who was credited — mistakenly according to many — with coming up with rugby while a student at Rugby School in Warwickshire during the early 19th century.

The trophy has been won by New Zealand (1987 and 2011), Australia (1991 and 1999), South Africa (1995 and 2007), and England (2003).

Canada, ranked 17th in the world, will play out of a pool with No. 3 Ireland, No. 7 France, No. 15 Italy and No. 18 Romania this fall.

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