Rugby Canada has named Jamie Levchuk as its new interim chief executive officer.
He takes over from outgoing CEO Allen Vansen, after working since 2020 as the organization’s managing director of business operations. Levchuk has also worked with HSBC Canada Sevens and previously held positions with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canucks and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“It’s a time in our union where we’re going to be going through some changes, and it’s an exciting time to hit the restart button on a few things,” he said. “Obviously there’s going to be some challenges up ahead as well.”
Both the men’s and women’s sides of the program have struggled lately.
The men’s 15s failed to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the first time in the tournament’s history, a result that will see Rugby Canada miss out on around $1 million in funding from World Rugby, the sport’s governing body.
Canada’s women finished seventh in sevens competition at the Tokyo Olympics, prompting a review of Rugby Canada’s high-performance program. Results from that review are expected in the next few weeks, and Levchuk said he looks forward to working with the board to implement recommended changes.
Recent years have seen a number of high-profile player retire from both the sevens and 15s mens sides. Ten players with the 15s earned their first caps during a summer series in Europe. The women saw program pillar Ghislaine Landry retire, and the 15s play international matches for the first time since 2019 last November – their fall tour produced wins over USA and Wales an a lopsided loss to World Cup rivals England.
“You’re seeing with our men’s and women’s sevens program now this next generation of players is coming through,” Levchuk said. “We need to make sure they get the opportunity to step in for those players who’ve come before.”
The reintroduction of programs like Pacific Pride, a development academy for up-and-coming men players, has seen a number of graduates earn professional contracts in Major League Rugby. A new women’s competition called the Pacific Four will feature Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia and, COVID restrictions allowing, should happen this year ahead of the 2022 World Cup in October and November.
“We have work to do, we realize that,” Levchuk said. “But again, there is room for optimism here with the teams and the players that are heading out there.”
He said a decision about a permanent CEO will be made around mid-2022.
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