Canadian Looks to Spoil Debut of Toronto Wolfpack in English Rugby League

By Davidson, Neil | The Canadian Press, March 3, 2017 | Go to article overview

Canadian Looks to Spoil Debut of Toronto Wolfpack in English Rugby League


Davidson, Neil, The Canadian Press


Wolfpack make rugby league debut in London

--

When the Toronto Wolfpack make their debut Saturday in London in the third tier of English rugby league, a Canadian international will be standing in their way.

English-born Louis Robinson, one of the London Skolars' leading forwards, qualifies to wear the Maple Leaf because his grandfather was originally from Ottawa. The six-foot-one 230-pounder came to the attention of Canadian rugby league officials some six years ago when, surfing the Internet during a break from studying for exams at university, he shot them an email.

"They wrote me back almost straight away," he said.

A couple of weeks later, Robinson got a plane ticket to play for Canada against Jamaica.

On Saturday, the 26-year-old Robinson and his Skolars welcome Canada's first pro rugby league team -- and the sport's first transatlantic entry -- to the Kingstone Press League 1 for a game that is being broadcast in both England (via Premier Sports) and Canada (GameTV).

"We have people travelling from all over England to come and watch this game," said Robinson. "So it'll be massive."

"I can tell you we've injected a lot of life into League 1," Wolfpack CEO Eric Perez said proudly.

The Wolfpack are certainly good for the box office. "We expect to get our biggest crowd, ever," said Skolars GM Jac Davies.

The London team normally draws 500-600 fans per game at the New River Stadium, whose main stand seats around 1,000. Davies expects 1,500 Saturday, with the overflow in concrete terraces.

"I think the lads are really fired up, looking forward to it" said Davies. "Hopefully we can do a job on Saturday."

The odds are against the London team, which finished eighth in the league last year with an 8-6-0 record.

Toronto is a fully professional side. The other teams in the league are semi-pro -- the Skolars have day jobs, from plumbers and electricians to teachers and engineers, and train three times a week.

"Everybody going up against them is going to be an underdog," Davies of the Wolfpack.

Robinson used to work in the Skolars commercial sales department but now is with a company that designs publications for sports events.

The Wolfpack are a global bunch with players from Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Tonga, the U.S. and Wales as well as Canada internationals Rhys Jacks and Tom Dempsey, who like Robinson have Canadian bloodlines.

Essentially the team will be based in the north of England, travelling to home games in Toronto as needed.

The Wolfpack are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Toulouse Olympique XIII, a fully professional side that returned to English play last season. …

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