Appearing in his first World Cup this September, Canadian back row Jebb Sinclair is set to make a powerful impact on the pitch. The Fredericton, New Brunswick native learned the game of rugby playing on the pitches in the small Canadian province for the Fredericton Loyalist; he was noticed by National team selectors during a North American Four tournament. Since then, Jebb has been training with the national squad and received his first cap in November, 2008 against Portugal. Sinclair has since earned himself 16 caps against many top tier nations. The 25 year old, coming in at 6 foot 3 inches and 238 lbs was noticed again for his physical play and mobility during the 2011 Churchill Cup by the London Irish. The Irish signed Jebb impressed with his physical size, defence and high work rate; he will join the squad and start his professional career after the RWC. It was this year in Canada’s first of two warm up matches against the USA that Jebb would touch down for his first 5 pointer wearing the red and white.
Being a fellow New Brunswicker, I have watched Jebb play many times in the province and on a few occasions taken the field against him; I playing for arch rival club the Saint John Trojans. Through this connection, I was able to get a hold of Jebb and ask him a few questions prior to the RWC. Learning the game of rugby in New Brunswick, a province in Canada that is not among the dominate provincial unions, has installed a sense of great pride in Jebb and he feels “so proud to be one of 2 players from New Brunswick it’s obviously a huge influence. I love the fact I get to represent my club and friends from New Brunswick”.
Canada played a home and home series of warm up matches against the USA on August 6 and August 13. With the Canadian squad taking both wins, I had to ask Jebb what were his thoughts on the state of the team heading towards New Zealand, and he believes that “[a]fter a couple tough fought games against the USA the last two weekends we’ve kind of got to highlight the areas we are not quite sharp enough in and still have 3 weeks to fix it.”. Canada landed safely in Australia on Sunday to face the Australian Barbarians. The Aussie Barbarians have assembled a strong and experienced squad with the likes of Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, which will certainly test the tackling of the Canadian team. Also the matches will hopefully give Canada a chance to refine its offense, an area highlighted in the USA games as needing some attention.
Knowing what areas the squad needs to improve in, I asked Jebb looking ahead to the RWC what were the goals and expectations of the athletes and coaches, they “are all excited and optimistic about our chances come RWC 2011. Well we’ve all kind of put down that the team goal is to make it into the knockout stages and have a go.” It is this excitement, this pure excitement and pride to be representing their nation on the global stage that I believe Canada brings to the tournament that other nations lack. Top tier nations although proud and excited to be at the RWC, many of their athletes have been to the world stage multiple times. They feel the pressure of the expectations to win. Canada is able to play in the tournament with excitement and pride, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, making them a dangerous team.
Despite the RWC less than a month away and Jebb’s attention and focus on the upcoming matches in Australia I had to ask him to comment on his signing with the London Irish. “I’m really looking forward to joining the Irish. I’ve already become pretty loyal to them even without having met them because they were the first team to give me a shot so I’m really looking forward to getting in the mix with them and showing what I got.” There is no set date to when Jebb will make his debut for the Exiles, but I’m sure he will be joining the roaster as soon as possible after his duties for Rugby Canada are done.
As Jebb mentioned earlier he is one of two New Brunswickers on the Canadian roaster, the other is Chauncey O’Toole. Knowing this I had to ask him what it was like to playing alongside a fellow Maritimer and old rival Belleisle Rover, “Well we’ve had the opportunity over the past couple months to both be starting in the backrow which means our lockers in the dressing rooms are right beside each other, and I find it extremely special that two small town boys from the same area in Canada get to represent our country together.” Both athletes are the gems of New Brunswick rugby, both represented their province and their home clubs in the province for a number of years before becoming members of the Rugby Canada program. Chauncey and Jebb show the kind of talent that can come from areas of the world that aren’t rugby dominant. Both play similar rugby physical and mobile, with high work rates and after stellar 2011 Churchill Cup Tournaments have futures in professional rugby. Watching them compete in RWC will give us all in New Brunswick a sense of pride knowing we coached, played with and competed against these talented Canadian internationals. Jebb and Chauncey playing shoulder to shoulder on the world stage is both special to them and to everyone involved in rugby in New Brunswick.
Finally I had to ask Jebb what was the story behind the fearsome beard, “The beard is just bad ass.”