03/08/2012 02:38 EST | Updated 05/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Former captain, CEO Gareth Rees returns to Rugby Canada in new role

Gareth Rees, former Canadian captain and Rugby Canada CEO, is returning to the fold.

The 44-year-old IRB Hall of Famer has joined Rugby Canada as men's national program manager. He will oversee the senior men's team, sevens squad and the Centre of Excellence academy side.

Rees has moved his family from Vancouver to Victoria and will be based in Langford, home to the new Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence.

"It's remarkable, from where we've come from," Rees said of the facility, which opened in January.

"You almost couldn't have imagined it back in the day," he added.

Rees was a Canadian rugby pioneer, a master tactician with an accurate boot.

The former fly half and fullback was the first man to play in four World Cups.

He saw action in all of Canada's 13 matches from 1987 to 1999, captained the side in 1995 and 1999 and scored 120 tournament points, including a Canadian-record 27 against Namibia in his last World Cup match.

Rees was just 19 when he made his World Cup debut in 1987.

He played overseas for Oxford University, Newport, Bedford, Merignac, Wasps and Harlequins. He won 55 caps for Canada.

He can also lay claim to having played for the Barbarians and, in his role as history teacher and rugby coach at Eton College, taught Prince William.

Rees retired after the '99 World Cup. He was appointed CEO of Rugby Canada in May 2002 but stepped down in September 2003 with a year left on his contract.

Rugby Canada announced his resignation in a terse 76-word release.

Graham Brown, then Rugby Canada's COO and now its CEO, says the expanded, more structured organization is now in a position to better use Rees' talents.

"His skill sets now can be totally maximized — his connections, his connections with the players and the teams," Brown said.

Rees will report to Mike Chu, general manager of rugby operations and performance.

Since stepping down as CEO, Rees has served as a TV commentator and analyst and started his own events planning business.

He was inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame last October. He is also a member of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, B.C. Rugby Hall of Fame and Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame.

Rees said he was drawn back to Rugby Canada after being asked, along with fellow former captains Mark Wyatt and Al Charron, to speak to the Canadian team before last year's World Cup.

"I was kind of inspired by those two," said Rees, who has the Maple Leaf tattooed on his ankle. "And then just seeing the team, at the World Cup, and how they carried themselves.

"And probably for me the difference is (coach) Kieran Crowley — the values he brings back are I think the values we had. Hard work, no excuses, getting on with it. So I just got a little but jazzed by seeing all that.

"I just wanted to get back. The timing was right and this opportunity came up. I'm really excited."

An exiting time too, with rugby sevens coming to the Olympics starting in 2016.

Rees will not be coaching. He sees his goal as helping the coaches enable Canadian players to reach their full potential.

"That excites me," he said. "Because I know that leads to upsets on the world stage, which is the other thing that excites me about Canadian rugby."

The Canadian men are currently ranked 13th in the world in the 15-man game and stand 10th in the IRB Sevens World Series standings.

Note — Canada's under-20 team lost 30-22 to Romania on Wednesday at Vancouver Island's Shawnigan Lake School in the opening of a two-game series. The second game is Saturday at Langford.