Rugby Canada announced its 31-man squad for the upcoming World Cup in England this week and only one Quebecer made the cut: Benoît Piffero.
"I'm proud to represent this part of Canada, which is not represented enough at this level at the moment," Piffero told CBC by phone from Halifax, where the team is preparing for an exhibition game versus the Glasgow Warriors this Saturday.
Piffero says being the only Quebecer named to Team Canada was a bittersweet moment.
On one hand, it means he will realize his dream of playing in the Rugby World Cup — but on the other hand, he's doing without his long time teammate and fellow Montrealer Jon Phelan.
Phelan was among the final players cut from the squad.
"Jon used to play with me at Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue, so until that moment (he was cut) we were always two from Quebec and he was kind of my translator and a really good friend. So now I'm all by myself and I will try to show that Rugby in Quebec is growing," Piffero said.
Piffero's French connection
- Piffero was born in Montreal; his parents were immigrants from France.
- He lived his early years in Montreal before his parents moved him to France, where he spent his childhood.
- As a young man, he returned to Montreal and played for the Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue Rugby Football Club
- Piffero has played 58 career games in the French rugby union's top amateur league, Fédérale 1.
- Piffero has been part of Canada's national Rugby program for two years.
From Ste-Anne's to Team Canada
Piffero said he wouldn't be where he is today with out the Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue Rugby Football Club (SABRFC).
In 2012, he was playing a season with the club when he was scouted by the Atlantic Rock, a team in the Canadian Rugby Championship league based in St. John's, Nfld.
The Atlantic Rock wanted Piffero to play for them, but couldn't afford to pay to relocate him from Montreal.
Piffero said the SABRFC recognized the opportunity playing for the Atlantic Rock represented, and offered to pay half of his expenses
"They didn't hesitate to give me this opportunity… That is something that helped me a lot. It helped me be selected for the Rock and for Rugby Canada and now for the Rugby World Cup squad," Piffero said.
Piffero and Team Canada will play its final pre-World Cup exhibition game on Canadian soil in Halifax on Saturday.
Then the team will fly to England, where they will play in tune up games against Georgia and Fiji before opening the World Cup against Ireland on Sept. 19.