His birthday week could be a special one for Lavington rugby star Isaac (Ike) Olson.
The Clarence Fulton Secondary School grad turns 23 on July 1, and the Canada Day baby hopes a great present would be helping his U.S.-based pro rugby squad, the New England Free Jacks, advance to the Major League Rugby Championship Shield contest.
Later in the birthday week, Canada men’s rugby will announce the players selected to play a pair of test matches in the South Pacific in August against Tonga, as the Canadian program builds toward 2025 qualification matches for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.
Olson is among the 41 players named to the long list available for the tour on Thursday, June 22.
“That would be an amazing tour to go on,” said Olson Thursday, from his home near Boston. The Free Jacks play in nearby Quincy, Mass. He has one cap playing international rugby 15s for Canada.
“I’m hoping for a spot.”
With 2023 marking Tonga Rugby Union’s centennial, Canada will play Tonga on Aug. 10 and 15, the first matches that Tonga has hosted on home soil since 2017. These will also serve as Tonga’s final warm-up matches ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Prior to arriving in Tonga, Canada’s Men’s Rugby Team will hold a training camp in Nadi, Fiji, which will include a training scrimmage with the Fijian Drua academy (Fiji’s Super Rugby team). This will be the first time Canada’s Men’s Rugby Team has come together since playing the Netherlands and Namibia in Amsterdam last November.
In the meantime, there’s the MLR Eastern final to prepare for. Olson and the Free Jacks are rolling into the post-season, having clinched the Eastern Conference title weeks ago with a 14-2 record. New England has won its last 10 games following a 26-24 defeat to the Utah Warriors on March 31, a game in which Olson scored his first – and only – professional try.
“I haven’t scored again but I have played a lot of decent minutes,” he said.
The Free Jacks closed out the regular season with a 47-24 win in Seattle against the Seawolves, a game in which Olson’s family was in the stands watching. He’s played his second season with the Free Jacks in the backs at centre or at wing.
“The whole professional experience has been pretty sweet,” said Olson. “You put in a good day’s work, then kick back and relax. The rugby itself is of a very high calibre and it’s getting better. The coaching in the league is world-class.”
Olson and the Free Jacks will host the winner of the conference semifinal Sunday, June 25, between the New York Ironworkers and Old Glory DC. The Eastern Conference final will be at 2:30 p.m. Pacific July 1.
The Seawolves will face the hometown Houston SabreCats in the Western Conference semi Saturday, June 24. The winner advances to the conference final in San Diego against the San Diego Legion July 2.
The two conference winners will play for the Championship Shield Saturday, July 8, at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill.