For most athletes, flying to France for a rugby tournament would easily be a trip of a lifetime.
For Corben Bowen, maybe not.
Trip of a lifetime implies a one-off scenario that’s unlikely to repeat, and that’s not the case for the GW Graham student and Canadian rugby star. For Bowen, this may be the first of many overseas adventures if he eventually gets where he wants to go.
“I want to represent my country at the senior national level and hopefully one day be in the Olympics for rugby sevens,” Bowen said. “So honestly, on the road to where I want to be I’m just at the beginning.
“But this is a good first step.”
Bowen will play for Rugby Canada in the eight team Rugby Europe U-18 Open Championships.
His crew opens April 7 vs Georgia in a field that also includes Japan, Portugal, Belgium, Spain and the United States.
Bowen left for Ontario today (Friday) where he’ll spend a week in training.
Then it’s off to France for the tournament.
“It’s definitely the biggest event I’ve ever been a part of and I’m very excited to be around the guys again,” Bowen said. “It’s always been so important to me to represent my country and represent something bigger than myself.
“But being in a tournament with Japan and Spain and international teams like that, it’s kind of crazy.”
Bowen is one of 26 players on the roster and one of 10 from B.C. He earned his spot with an impressive showing at a Rugby Canada camp in early February.
Forty one players traveled to snowy Shawnigan Lake hoping to impress Canadian U-18 men’s head coach Mike Curran.
Bowen turned heads with his athleticism and attitude.
“The coaches told me I was one of the fastest players there and one of the most dangerous players with the ball in my hands,” Bowen said. “We had exit interviews at the end and they told me I also separated myself by being the loudest person on the field.”
Bowen was one of two Chilliwackians at that camp.
Von Richardson also made the journey, but he was knocked out on day one with a concussion.
“It was a random thing where he was going into a ruck and I think he got a knee to the head,” Bowen recalled. “Knowing his potential and knowing he would have made the team, it was really devastating to see him go out.”
Bowen said the contact was crazy at the camp, with players getting injured left and right.
Teeming with confidence when he arrived in Shawnigan Lake, Bowen’s psyche was almost wrecked by a hard hit on day one.
“I wasn’t intimidated when I arrived because I knew I deserved to be there and my preparation and determination got me there,” Bowen said. “But in the very first scrimmage, a guy had the ball, I went in way too high and I got stiff-armed and blown right out of the way.
“I was a little shaky after that, but I had a good talk with Von and he set my mind straight. I’m thankful I had a friend like him who was there to boost my confidence.”
Bowen left the camp feeling good and a couple weeks later, he and Richardson received nearly simultaneous emails from Rugby Canada.
One good. One bad.
“We have this huge group chat with all the players, and they were saying the emails were going out to players who’d been cut,” Bowen said. “This was right in the middle of the school day and I get this email and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no.’
“But I kept reading and reading, found out I made the team and I just freaked out and lost it.
“I had to leave the classroom and I started bawling my eyes out.”
Bowen was still wiping tears from his eyes as he made his way to the GWG gymnasium to find Richardson.
It wasn’t a big surprise that Von didn’t make it when he didn’t get a chance to show what he could do, but still, Bowen’s jubilation was tempered by his friend’s disappointment.
“He looked at me and smiled at me and said congrats and I was really honoured and proud to be his friend,” Bowen said. “It was a tough pill to swallow not making the cut, but he held his head high and I know he’s going to make it next time.”
Bowen is not kidding when he says he’s just at the beginning of Rugby Canada’s player pathway.
“It’s U-18 Canada that I’m at right now, and next year it’s going to be U-19 and then U-20,” Bowen explained. “From there I’d be selected to Rugby Canada’s A team, which is basically a junior team one level below senior men’s.
“From there, if I play well and the coaches like what they see, I’d be selected for the senior men’s team.
“So it’s still a long road.”
Follow the tourney online at rugbyeurope.eu/competitions/2017-u18-xv-mens-championship