Chelsey Minter is one of six players from Westshore RFC who will be a part of Canada’s entry into this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland. The 28-year old Sidney native will be participating in her first World Cup. (Kevin Light/Rugby Canada)

Six Westshore Valkyries set for Rugby World Cup

Colwood-based club hosting send-off barbecue Friday night

Westshore RFC’s Chelsey Minter says she’s both nervous and excited about this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup.

“I would say it’s like 60 [per cent] nerves to 40 [per cent] excitement,” she laughed.

Minter, a 5’8” prop who grew up in Sidney and graduated from Stelly’s Secondary, was named to Canada’s national squad for the first time this summer. It’s an achivement she’s spent countless hours working towards in the gym and on the practice pitch.

“It’s so special … actually getting the invitiation to go was another level of pride, excitement, and happiness,” she said.

Minter wasn’t alone in her excitement.

Valkyries head coach Clayton Panga actually found out about Minter being named to the team even before she did due to his role as a skills coach with Rugby Canada.

“I was very excited for her and I knew just from coaching her at Westshore that she had the goods to compete at that level,” he said.

And Panga, a former member of the men’s national team, will have plenty to root for when he attends next month’s tournament. The B.C. champion Vals will be well-represented with Emily Belchos, Amanda Thornborough, Elissa Alarie and Latoya Blackwood also making the trip.

Not to mention Panga’s wife, Barbara Mervin.

“I’m very proud of them. It’s great for the club but mainly for themselves and their families,” he said.

Mervin’s 2014 World Cup ended in disappointment, having suffered a hand injury in the team’s opening-match win over Spain.

The now-35-year-old thought the 2014 tournament might be her last but took advantage of the opportunity to continue her national team career, giving her a chance to go out on her own terms.

“Breaking your hand is disappointing but bones heal and it wasn’t really anything serious … while it was an untimely injury it wasn’t the end,” she said.

Mervin expects the 2017 World Cup to be it for her, but wouldn’t completely rule out continuing beyond this year’s championships.

She says the experience is extra special because of the large contingent of Westshore RFC players who are also on the team.

Minter echoed that sentiment and said that Westshore RFC’s national team veterans have given her plenty of advice on what to expect on the world stage.

“It’s very special to have home club members be on the team with you. It gives you a sense of home and comfort in training,” she said.

Mervin noted that the chemistry the Valkyries develop during the club season tends to carry over into international matches.

“It’s easier to play together when you get into those pressure situations because you’ve been playing with each other week-in and week-out,” she said.

The World Cup will take place in Ireland from Aug. 9 to 26. Canada will be looking to move one step up the podium this year, having finished second behind champion England in 2014.

The West Shore community will have a chance to wish local players well this evening (6:30 p.m., next to The Q Centre), as Westshore RFC will be hosting a send-off barbecue. All are welcome.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Twitter: @joelgazette