Canada’s men’s rugby team may have left Japan without a win on the pitch, but they’re being lauded around the world for big moves off the field.
Canada’s final Rugby World Cup Pool B game against Namibia was cancelled Sunday due to Typhoon Hagibis.
So instead of suiting up, more than a dozen players headed out into the streets near Kamaishi to help with cleanup. Their helping hands were captured in a video that’s now been viewed nearly a million times.
The squad arrived back in Victoria, B.C., Monday, where they shared details of the cleanup effort.
Rugby Canada media manager Gareth Rees said the players had woken up Sunday to the “massive disappointment” of their game being cancelled when the offer came in, and pitching in seemed the logical conclusion.
“There was a couple of houses we were helping older ladies to basically clear out all the contents of their house, they’d been flooded with three, four feet of water,” he said.
“It was one of those fantastic connections with a community, with people. It was a great day in an awful circumstance.”
The now-viral video shows the players, many decked out in Rugby Canada gear, shoveling muck and mud from the village’s streets.
“It was a landslide evacuated community, so we went in and helped shovel out some of the roads so cars could get in, and we went into some houses that weren’t properly protected, so they got pretty torn up in the typhoon,” said winger and fullback Andrew Coe.
Coe said the squad was proud to have ended the trip on a high note by pitching in.
“It was pretty emotional, we did a big tour and they showed us the evacuation sites from the tsunami nine years ago, and then to have the opportunity to help out the community was massive for us,” added scrum half Phil Mack.
“We wanted to be playing a rugby game that day, but again, you can’t fight Mother Nature and some things are more important than rugby.”
Two of Saturday’s three scheduled games were cancelled before the typhoon made landfall. Cancelled games are logged as 0-0 ties, and teams get two competition points each.
Canada, ranked 22nd in the world, had targeted the game against No. 23 Namibia as its best chance at a victory.
The Canadian men, who went 0-4-0 at the 2015 tournament, have not won a game at the World Cup since a 25-20 victory over Tonga at the 2011 competition. They have lost their last eight tournament matches, outscored 387-87 in the process.
-With files from the Canadian Press