Upon learning of the opportunity that Canadian U20 back-row Evan Olmstead had earned for himself, The Pro Report reached out across the seas and asked him to field some questions for us. Along with his U20 teammates, like Tyler Ardron (Pam-Am Games Gold Medalist), Cam Pierce (ASM Clermont-Auvergne Academy) and others, Olmstead's current status as a member of the HSBC Waratahs training squad augers well for the future of the Canadian forwards depth-chart. Enjoy the interview!
JH: Evan, when last the Canadian rugby public saw you, you were helping anchor the Canadian U20 back-row at the 2011 World Junior Trophy in Georgia. What was that experience like for you?
EO: Playing with in the U20 team was a fantastic experience, we had a great group of guys and I learned a lot from our coaching staff. The setup out at Shawnigan Lake was very conducive to building up a strong team both on and off the field. It was really a taste of what I envisage professional rugby to be like. Training hard and focusing all your energy into improving your individual and collective performance. It was a great experience.
JH: Being so far away, how did you manage to get involved in something like Canada's World Junior Trophy team?
EO: In terms of getting involved, I reached out to Canadian U20 Coach Mike Shelley via e-mail. I let him know that I was eligible and available if he wanted to consider me and sent him some game tapes from last season as we were just starting up for the year down here. I got my Sydney, New South Wales and Gordon RFC coaches to send a little reference about me; what I did, how I played, strengths and weakness and all that. I got invited to training camp and into the team from there.
JH: Can you fill us in on what you have been up to since then? Perhaps you could explain a little about your roots in Australia?
EO: I have lived in Australia since I was young, although being proudly Canadian born, in North Vancouver. My dad, a big rugby man with the Capilano RFC in Vancouver, took a job in Sydney when I was three years old and we just sort of got settled here. My whole family is Canadian so we get back every couple of years to visit with family and friends. I was born in North Vancouver, so that allowed me to qualify for the Canadian team.
When I got back from Georgia I was straight back into my Australian season and rejoined my club about half-way through. I have also completed my final internship as part of my Accounting Co-Op Scholarship here, which I will finish this year.
JH: As you've said, the club you are currently playing with down under is called Gordon. Can you tell us about that level of rugby and how you are enjoying playing rugby in a country where the sport has a higher profile?
EO: I started off the season playing 2nd Grade at Gordon and broke into 1st Grade once I got back from my time with the U20's. The 1st Grade competition in Sydney (known as the Shute Shield) is the toughest club competition in Australia and has strong ties with Super Rugby; with something around 65% of Super Rugby players in Australia being drawn from it.
It is fairly standard for past and present Wallabies to play in the Shute Shield which really adds to the quality, it is also good as a performance measure, when you play against a guy in your position like Dan Vickerman or Phil Waugh, who have proven themselves among the best in the world at what they do, you learn things and also see where you need to improve.
JH: How did the opportunity to train with the HSBC Waratahs come about and what has that experience been like?
EO: I got a phone call from the high performance manager at the Waratahs, basically asking if I'd be available for seven weeks of training, twice-a-week. The Waratahs had a bunch of guys on the Wallabies tour to the UK in December, as well as some injuries from the World Cup, and they got in contact with some of the younger guys that performed well in the Shute Shield, whom they reckoned showed some potential.
It has been a great learning experience so far. The coaching staff are so knowledgeable about the game and really know how to get the best from their players, who are among the hardest trainers I have ever seen. The pace and intensity of everything is 100%. They guys here pretty well treat you as if your one of the full-time players and expect nothing less from you than they deliver themselves. I have learned so much in just a couple of weeks and I am sure that as we get deeper into pre-season I will continue to learn and improve. In a training environment like this I'm sure there is lots more to come.
JH: How easy has it been to stay involved with the Canadian program, seeing as you are living and playing your rugby on the other side of the world?
EO: The Canadian management have been keeping in contact with me. I speak to Mike Shelley reasonably frequently, to make sure I'm on track. We agreed that staying down here was the best for me for now in terms of the level of competition and the professional opportunities that can arise; so it's for best for my development at this stage. In terms of playing for Canada in the future, I would be honoured to, anytime you can put on the jersey and sing the anthem is really something special and I guess only time will tell.
JH: What are the rugby goals for you, now that you have had a taste of training in a professional environment?
EO: I grew up watching the Waratahs and training with them now has given me a sniff of what can happen if I continue to work my butt off. My ultimate goal is to compete and win World Cups. I think that is the goal for every serious rugby player and having this opportunity makes me want it more than ever.
JH: Thanks for this Evan! Best of luck with the Waratahs!
Jeff Hull is a freelance contributor to Rugby Canada.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.