11/13/2017 15:00 EST | Updated 11/14/2017 05:22 EST

Rugby Canada parts ways with general manager, restructures front office

Rugby Canada, whose flagship men's 15s team has been moving backwards in recent times, shook up its structure Monday.

The governing body fired its top rugby man in Jim Dixon, its general manager of rugby operations and performance.

For the last two and a half years, Dixon had been the man ordering reviews into teams that had underperformed. On Monday, Rugby Canada delivered its verdict on Dixon although CEO Allen Vansen chose to see it in a different light.

"This was not a decision made out of performance of any of our teams," Vansen said in an interview. "We know that we have made some good inroads on all those top programs. We've got a lot of work to do on our men's 15s program and that work continues.

"And we still have a lot of work to do on all those other programs. We can not afford to be complacent."

The Canadian men had been at a record low of No. 24 in the rankings but moved up one notch this week to No. 23 despite losing 54-22 to No. 12 Georgia in Tbilisi on the weekend.

While the women's side of the program has prospered recently, with Canada winning a sevens bronze at the Rio Olympics, the men have floundered. The men's sevens team failed to qualify for Rio, leading to the dismissal of coach Liam Middleton.

Dixon also fired 15s coach Mark Anscombe after the Canadian men were beaten by the U.S. in their first attempt at qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. Kieran Crowley, Anscombe's predecessor, also left on Dixon's watch after an internal review of the men's program following the 2015 World Cup.

Vansen said the restructuring is about "new leadership."

"We believe this is certainly what's required for our expanded organization (in Langford)," he said in an interview.

"It's obviously building a future for our future and what we believe the future holds for rugby in Canada, which is significant growth" he added. 

Dixon joined Rugby Canada in April 2015, succeeding Mike Chu who returned to his native New Zealand. Prior to that Dixon was CEO of B.C. Rugby. He has also worked in Australia, Spain and England.

Dustin Hopkins, Rugby Canada's director of development, is taking over as interim GM while the position is posted.

Dixon's exit is paired with a restructuring that sees Rugby Canada downsize its corporate office in Richmond Hill, Ont., and move several departments to its centre of excellence in Langford, B.C. They include the finance, marketing and communications, general operations and governance departments.

The Ontario office will continue to house the commercial, events and merchandising departments.

"They're there because it makes sense from a corporate perspective," said Vansen, who will remain based in Ontario but will spend a lot of time in Langford.

Rugby Canada says its restructuring comes after an "extensive review" of the entire organization.

It still plans to hire a performance director for the men's and women's 15s teams.


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