Local rugby player Megan Hamm and her Canadian teammates will be clashing against the world next month.
Canadian Interuniversity Sport, as the Canadian representative of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), recently announced Canada's women's and men's rugby rosters for the fifth FISU championships, which will be held from July 11-13 in Brive, France.
Head coach Lesley McKenzie of UBC will lead the women's contingent in France.
A former CIS all-Canadian with the Thunderbirds, McKenzie played for Team Canada at a pair of World Cups, including in 2010 in England.
She will be joined in France by two of her UBC players, Hamm and Gabrielle Hindley from Guelph, Ontario.
Hamm is a 5'3" scrum half who had a decorated high school career with the Aldergrove Totems before joining UBC.
In 2007, the Totems went unbeaten at the B.C. high school girls 'AA' championships, beating host Shawnigan Lake 23-8 in the final.
Hamm, the Game MVP, completed her rugby career with ACSS by scoring a pair of tries in the provincial final.
Also in 2007, Hamm won the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award.
As Aldergrove Community Secondary School's 2006 Female Athlete of the Year, Hamm tried her hand at - and excelled in - a variety of sports, including volleyball, basketball, baseball, soccer, and rugby.
A talented athlete, she was equally strong in her scholastic efforts, and consistently made the A Honour Roll.
Five years ago, the words of her teacher Gord Dennison proved to be prophetic when he said, "It would not surprise me if Megan gets named to represent Canada [in rugby)."
He said that Hamm combines athletic skills with a tremendous work ethic and a desire to improve.
The Langley Advance caught up with Hamm to talk about her time in Aldergrove, and her upcoming challenge in France.
How has your time been at UBC, so far? Amazing. I love UBC and the atmosphere surrounding it.
There are so many things to do and clubs to join, which makes it really easy to meet new people. Being a part of the UBC rugby team has been a life-changing experience.
What are you majoring in and how much of a step up has university rugby been compared to high school rugby?
I am in my third year of a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. University rugby is a huge step up from high school. The competition and training commitment is much more intense. Our season is really condensed, so every practice and game is taken very seriously.
How surprised were you to hear that you've been selected to help represent Canada at the world championships?
I am still in shock, but really excited at the same time. It is always a huge honour to represent your country at a world competition. With just over a month away I hope I will be physically and mentally ready for this journey in Brive, France.
This is a major stepping stone towards my aspiration of playing in the 2016 Olympic Games.
How well will Canada do at this upcoming event, in your opinion?
Canada has done really well in the last few tournaments so we have a bit of a reputation to live up to.
We are all really strong as individuals, so I feel the added pressure will give us that extra bit of determination. We only have a few days to train together before the tournament, but if we can quickly form a bond, I feel we have a really good opportunity to make our mark.
Looking back at your days in Aldergrove, with the Totems, who do you credit as being a mentor or a role model to you during those years and why?
My coach/teacher Gord Dennison (a.k.a. Mr. D). He was the one that believed in me from day one. He put in countless selfless hours to make sure we could play to our fullest potential. Without him and all my other teammates I would not be where I am today.
How did you get into rugby and did you know you were particularly good at it right away?
I was always very active and liked to have some sort of after-school activity. After volleyball and basketball season was finished, rugby would start. In Grade 9, a few of my friends joined and asked me to play so I thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.
I fell in love and haven't stopped playing since. The game is so diverse there is always room for learning and development.
For those who don't know a lot about rugby, what is your role as a scrum half?
A scrum half is an important position and is the vital link between the backs and forwards. They have a crucial job of being the communicator and ball distributor on the field. However in sevens a scrum half's job is not as demanding.
How much support do you get from your mom, and do you spend a lot of time in Aldergrove, these days?
My mother, Rebecca, is very supportive.
However, as a single parent with three children, she hasn't been able to help out financially, but morally she has always been there.
Every local game or tournament she is on the sidelines. Right now I am back home training before I leave at the end of the month. During the school year I try and find time to make a home visit to see family and friends.
Is this your first time playing for your country? If so, how nervous are you going into the competition?
Fortunately this is my second opportunity to represent our country.
I went to England for the Nations Cup in 2009 with the U20 team.
Even with some international playing experience the overwhelming feeling of excitement and nervousness returns every time I put on the maple leaf jersey.
Every tournament is different and I treat it like it is my first.
Do you plan on doing any sightseeing in France?
We have a few days before the tournament starts to settle in and acclimatize to the different atmosphere. So hopefully we have some free time to take in the cultural aspects, but our main focus is set on the tournament. We only have a four-day camp before competition to practice and play together so our time is really valuable.
. . .
Team Canada's women's team will be looking to continue the tremendous success achieved by previous Canadian entries at the world university rugby sevens championships.
Canada won the first two tournaments in 2004 (Beijing, China) and 2006 (Rome, Italy) before finishing second in 2008 (Cordoba, Spain) and fourth in 2010 (Porto, Portugal).
On the men's side, the Canadians are coming off their best-ever FISU result as they placed sixth in 2010. Canada did not participate in the inaugural tourney in 2004 and finished seventh in 2006 and 10th in 2008.
Canada will have two Thunderbirds players on the roster, Jonathan Hill (Edmonton, Alta.), a veteran of the 2010 FISU team, and Liam Murphy-Burke (White Rock).
"Obviously any time an opportunity arises to represent Canada it is an honour," said Murphy-Burke. "The chance to play rugby overseas at an international level has me very excited for the trip. A big part of a trip like this is also the cultural experience, I am sure Brive will have a lot to offer in terms of that.
"Playing sevens on the international stage for Canada is my long term goal, so a team like this could potentially be a perfect stepping stone."
Murphy-Burke toured England earlier in the spring with Canada's Under-19 men's national team.