By: Mark Janzen
Photos courtesy Rugby Canada
It wasn’t dramatic, nor was it theatrical. Rather, it was matter-of-fact and businesslike.
In a meeting with Kingsley Jones – Canada’s men’s 15s coach – and a few others, a 22-year-old Lucas Rumball was told he’d be leading the charge as captain in Canada’s test match with Russia this past summer. Kind of a big deal.
In doing so, Jones turned his team’s leadership over to the third youngest skipper in Canadian rugby history, trailing only Tyler Ardron (172 days younger in 2013) and Preston Wiley (30 days younger in 1977). With three Canadian veterans in DTH van der Merwe, Phil Mack and Ardron unavailable, the captain duties landed on Rumball.
“I didn’t really see it coming,” Rumball recalls. “But it was a huge honour for me.”
Yet, at the same time, kind of not a big deal.
While the achievement was impressive, the moment was understated and rather Rumball-esque in its very nature.
Stepping out of the meeting with Jones and company, not much changed for the flanker from Scarborough, Ontario. As he has since he was a teenager in the Toronto suburb, Rumball went back to work. Steeped in a familial tradition of rugby-playing leadership, the 6-foot-4, 209-pound Rumball, who has since turned 23, accepted what was an all-too familiar role and carried on.
A captain in his days on teams with Balmy Beach Rugby in Toronto, a captain with Canada’s U20 side in 2015, and a captain with Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Rumball’s accession to captaincy within the senior team seemed simply to be the next step in a career trajectory that looks to have a tantalizing upside.
His younger sister, Dominique, who is in her fourth year at Queen’s University and, of course, is captain of the Gaels women’s 15s side, heard the news of her brother’s latest appointment from their mom.
“I was so proud,” Dominique says. “Everything he has been doing has paid off and he’s truly a great leader. It didn’t matter what sport he played (growing up), he was always a strong leader. He has that great personality and that ability to remain calm and collected and represent people.”
A few days later, in the moment, the game didn’t transpire any more theatrically nor dramatically than that mid-week meeting with Jones. In reality, it was far more forgettable. Canada lost 43-20 against Russia at Twin Elm Rugby Park in Ottawa.
“Obviously it didn’t go our way, but it was a big learning experience for me to captain a team at that level,” Rumball says.
Yet, despite the setback on the scoreboard, the contest remained a statement: Rumball’s future within the Canadian program continues to beam – brightly.
In the spring of 2015, at a formal ceremony inside Government House in downtown Victoria, B.C., Rumball was named Rugby Canada’s men’s young player of the year for 2014. Later that summer, he captained Canada to a second place finish at the 2015 World Rugby U20 Trophy. A few months after that, on February 6, 2016, Rumball made his senior debut. Starting at openside flanker against Uruguay in the 2016 Americas Rugby Championship, he played 62 minutes.
A year and a half after that, in September 2017, he made the full-time commitment to Canada’s centralized program in Langford, B.C.
Now, he’s set to be a major player in the Canadian lineup that will compete in the Americas Pacific Challenge 2018 (starting October 6 in Montevideo, Uruguay), which, of course, is a preparatory event for the all-important World Cup Repechage in November.
“(Playing in Uruguay) is massive,” says Rumball, who has earned 22 senior caps. “We have to get ourselves rolling and get some wins behind us and get the boys playing really well. It’s a huge opportunity for us. The guys have been training really hard and hammering home the fitness stuff, so we’re excited to see this start to come to fruition.”
Spoken like a leader, it all seems to come naturally.
When Dominique, was named the captain for Queen’s, it was another major moment for the Rumball family. First, older brother Jacob – five years Dominique’s senior and three years beyond Lucas – led the Gaels. Then, it was Lucas captaining the Kingston-based program. And, now, it’s Dominique’s turn to carry on the family’s rugby tradition within the confines of Queen’s historic halls.
And, not surprisingly, the youngest of four Rumball siblings is keen to learn from her older brothers, which also includes Joshua, who played rugby at Brock University.
“It’s hard being captain and you have a lot of people to deal with. I learned from them to step back and look at the situation and do what’s best for the team. That’s what a leader does. And I knew that if I ever had an issue I could call my brothers and they’d give me the best advice I would ever want.”
Indeed, it would seem leadership runs through the Rumball veins, but there’s a chance that running even thicker is hard work.
“My parents raised us well,” says Dominque, whose mom and dad own and operate an asbestos abatement company in Scarborough. “Everything takes hard work and [Lucas’] success is a testament to him getting up and working hard every day.”
Trickling, or perhaps better stated, pouring down from his older brother Jacob and Joshua, Lucas has always been the “blue-collar” type.
“When I go in, I’m giving it my best at whatever it is,” Rumball says. “If I’m not doing that, there’s really no point in doing it. There’s nothing stopping you from enjoying it while you’re working hard. There are definitely some crappy times and some hard times, but at the end of the day, you need to really enjoy what you’re doing.”
In an honest moment, and forgetting rugby for a short time, Rumball says his Fortnite form has recently taken a bit of a hit. There’s no doubt he’s had better days playing the ultra-popular online game. That’s a good thing for Canada. Somewhat distancing himself these days, his focus is singular and simple.
“We’re emphasizing a winning culture,” he says of Canada’s priority in the run-up to the Americas Pacific Challenge. “We need to get some wins and get points on the board.”
Canadian fans will certainly agree.
For Canada, that leaves the task ahead looming rather large – first the APC and then, most importantly, the repechage.
And for Rumball, the next two weeks and the next two months will be all business. Don’t expect drama or theatre in his camp.
Okay, okay. You get the point.
Expect hard work, a smile and a key cog in making things spin.