Canada's top players have re-stated that they will boycott the side's forthcoming internationals over the sacking of former coach Dave Clark.
Following a meeting held in Victoria on Tuesday evening between Rugby Canada's Interim C.E.O. Graham Baldwin and Player's Representative Mike Holmes as well as six Canadian players, and former Canadian Captain Mark Wyatt, Canada's rugby players have announced that they are more resolute than ever and that they will boycott the upcoming internationals against Australia, Scotland, and Ireland.
The players had requested the meeting to discuss the matter of David Clark's reinstatement as National Team Coach for the balance of the 2001 season as a compromise. Mr. Baldwin stated categorically before the meeting commenced that the decision of the Board of Rugby Canada is final and is not open to negotiation.
The players stated that there was no further point to the meeting and that the players' boycott would continue and they will be formalizing an association and proceeding with strike action.
The players are disappointed that Mr. Baldwin declined to negotiate and proceeded with the appointment of a National Team Coach, Ian Birtwell, despite his written assurances to the contrary in his letter to the players of August 22, 2001 where he stated "For our part, we remain absolutely committed to having Athlete representation not only on our Board, but on all committees which deal with elite performance."
"Mr. Baldwin refused to discuss the substantive issues that have caused the current crisis in Canadian rugby, that is the firing of David Clark, and the hiring of interim coach Ian Birtwell," said Holmes. "Since that was the case, the players have no further recourse but to strike."
Canada's rugby players have been unhappy since the firing of coach David Clark on August 1, a decision made at an in camera Rugby Canada Board meeting in Toronto at which the player's unanimously elected representative, Mike Holmes was not permitted to attend, or to vote at.
Further, yesterday, knowing the meeting between themselves and Mr. Baldwin was to take place in an attempt to resolve the current impasse, Rugby Canada announced the appointment of former national coach Ian Birtwell on an interim basis to take charge of the upcoming three internationals.
"The whole thing was a massive insult and slap in the face to the players," said Mike Holmes, the players' representative. Victoria hooker Pat Dunkley added: "They didn't give us the respect of a meeting before they made their moves. They couldn't even wait 48 hours. Now they've come to the table and don't even want to talk about what it is that is bothering us. That is very insulting, and the players are no longer going to put up with it."
Holmes says that sixty or more Canadian players have been signed up and are in the process of forming a Player's Association, akin to the very successful English player's model that recently won huge concessions from the English Rugby Union.
The campaign to re-instate Clark has also been backed by some of Canada's preminent coaches. In a group statement they have said, We, the former National team coaches, support Canada's senior player's request "to reinstate David Clark or else face a boycott of the fall games against Australia, Scotland and Ireland. We also support revisiting the coaching issue by the complete Board of Rugby Canada, once these matches have been played."
The statement has been signed by Gary Johnston (National Under -17, Under-19, and National Senior Men's Coach 1985-1989), Bruce Howe (National Senior Men's Coach 1979-1982), Tillman Briggs (National Senior Men's Coach 1983-1984), Barry Legh (National Senior Men's Coach -1985), Pat Parfrey (National Senior Men's Coach 1996-1999), Paul Horne (National Under-19, Under-21, Under-23), Pat Palmer (National Under-17 and National Senior Men's Sevens Coach).