The start of the 2013 rugby season will be marked with a distinctly international flavour for the Kelowna Owls’ senior boys squad.
The Owls will leave Saturday for a two-week tour of the United Kingdom where they’ll play five friendlies in England, Wales and Scotland.
Twenty-five players and four coaches will make the trip across the Atlantic which will entail a blend of both rugby and cultural experiences.
“We’re going to tour a part of the world where rugby is such a big part of the culture,” said Owls head coach Dave Marfleet, who will be assisted by Wayne Price, Mark Steen and Chris Haynes. “The guys will meet new friends, they’ll get to see a little of each of the countries, and they’ll get to experience something new and exciting culturally. For a lot of the kids, it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The tour will begin in London, before the KSS team makes two stops in Wales in the communities of Tenbi and Swansea. The trip will then shift back to Southwell, England, before wrapping up in Kinross, Scotland.
Marfleet says the quality of rugby will be an eye-opener for his team.
“Skill-wise, those teams will be pretty advanced for sure,” said Marfleet. “They’ve been playing the game for a long time and it’s a big part of who they are. It’ll be a learning experience for our players, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The trip to the UK will be the third international trip for a KSS rugby team since 2008.
Marfleet, who has been on several international tours in the past, said there’s no better way to prepare for a new season.
“Going overseas to see another culture and another brand of rugby, you can’t replace that experience,” said Marfleet. “We’re all billeted out with families, so that will heighten the cultural experience for all of us, especially for the boys.”
A long and dedicated fund-raising effort by the team and school staff, led by Pam Price, allowed the Owls to make the journey to the UK, with the cost for the trip totalling more than $75,000 or $2,600 per person.
“We have a really keen group of parents and our school staff really did a great job as well, said Marfleet. “There was a wide variety of funding that went into this and it was nice to see everyone getting involved.”
The Owls are due to return home from Britain on March 23.