Maguire shines in sevens
St. Albert rugby player showcases superior speed for national sevens team
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 19, 2014 06:00 am
Speed demon Duncan Maguire is going places with the Canada sevens rugby team.
The frontrunner to make the national lineup at wing for next month’s IRB Sevens World Series stops in Glasgow, Scotland and London, England also has a shot at representing his country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“You never know but it’s definitely something you want to focus on,” Maguire said Monday, prior to leaving for a sevens’ training camp in Victoria in preparation for the IRB competitions in Europe.
Canada is ranked seventh in the IRB standings after finishing 12th in the 2013 IRB World Series.
Maguire, 24, was recruited by the national team for the Port Elizabeth tournament, Dec. 7 and 8 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in South Africa, after leading the Lionhearts Sevens to plate honours in the international invitational men’s division at the Emirates Dubai tournament Nov. 29 and 30.
“That was huge. I was very humbled by it for sure,” said the fastest player at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club. “The coaches came and watched one of our games and I got lucky – there were a few injuries on the Canadian team from that tournament, which was unfortunate for them but good for me because it gave me an opportunity. They said ‘Hey, what do you think about getting on a plane tomorrow and come to South Africa with us.’ It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I couldn’t turn it down.”
Maguire also played for Canada at the USA Sevens, Jan. 24 to 26 in Las Vegas.
“Sevens has been a big focus of mine ever since South Africa, when I got my foot in the door,” he said. “The good thing about sevens is there are so many tours. The IRB circuit runs from probably November to June. Summer time is more geared towards the 15s and the winter months and the spring is definitely geared towards the sevens rugby.”
Maguire, who is modest to a fault (he declined to reveal his time in the national team’s 40-metre dash during fitness testing), said he has “a few caps” with Canada during his brief sevens career.
“I started against South Africa when I was in Vegas and in the other games I’ve just been kind of put on,” said the national 15 player at the Americas Rugby Championship last October at Langford, B.C.
Maguire is perfect for the breakneck speed of sevens. The five-foot-11 and 190-pound lightning bolt has pace to burn at wing, also known as the flyer or finisher position.
The high school rugby product of the St. Albert Skyhawks earned his stripes at fullback in past seasons with the SARFC’s first 15 but with the Calgary-based Wolfpack last year he switched to wing and led the Canadian Rugby Championship league in tries with six in five matches. He also saw action at outside-centre towards the end of the 2013 fixtures with the Labatt’s Cup provincial premier finalists from SARFC.
“I’m kind of new to the game at sevens to be honest. I’m always learning every time I go out to these camps. It’s a different style of play defensively and offensively,” said Maguire, who missed the first half of the 2013 SARFC fixtures while recovering from shoulder surgery over the winter.
In sevens the halves are seven minutes in length and everything is a blur.
“You’re dying by halftime. You’re out of breath. It’s go, go, go. I find sevens more exhausting, to be honest,” Maguire said. “Sevens is more up-tempo and it’s definitely physical. The guys you’re playing against are pretty big at that level too so you still get quite the pounding.
“In 15s you play one game and because of the physical nature of the game you rest for a couple of days and it’s more like a week before your next game. In sevens it’s like six games in two days you play so after one game you’re back hydrating and recovering and getting the proper sodium you need to get in right away for your next game, which will be in two or three hours so you definitely have to stay focused the entire day.”
Maguire stressed he is a better all-around player at 15s after his breakthrough performance in sevens.
“Oh yeah, massively. At that (sevens) level every little skill kind of counts so when you go out to these training camps they focus on the little things and getting the basics right. If you perform those basics right it makes you better at performing at the more complicated things. The simple things like passing, ball handling, decision making and defence I’m definitely improving and just being around that higher experience and higher level of play I’m benefitting from that for sure but there is still lots of work to do.”
Maguire’s status is unclear for the May 16 season-opening Alberta Cup match for the first 15s against the hated Clansmen to kick off the notorious rugbyfest weekend at Ellerslie Rugby Park. However, he predicts the firsts will hit the ground in mid-season form.
“Like a cat on a hot tin roof, we’ll be off to the races in our first game. We’ll be flying.”
But how good, if not great, the firsts will be this season is debatable. Last year’s 47-10 debacle in the provincial final against the Calgary Hornets marked SARFC’s eighth-straight defeat at the hands of the Black and Yellow ruggers, winners of three Labatt’s Cups in a row and four in the last five years. The loss was the fourth in five trips to provincials in the last six years by the firsts, who finished 8-6 overall after going 6-8 as the 2012 north finalists.
“Last year we were trying to squeeze toothpaste out of an onion but this year I think we’ve found the juice,” Maguire said. “I can’t wait.”
Last weekend’s training camp for SARFC’s senior players at Riel Recreation Park gave Maguire a reason to believe.
“It went really, really well. It was good commitment from all the boys,” he said. “We’re expecting another MVP performance from (player/coach) Johnny Moloney. Adam Bontus will be leading the backs again this year. They both have a few special plays to bring the crowd to their feet.”
SCRUM BALLS: Moloney and Bontus are in the running to become contestants on the Mantracker Canadian reality television series.
Maguire and Moloney also gave Amazing Race Canada a shot but the duo didn’t make the cut.
The first SARFC match of the season is May 3 for the women’s team at Ellerslie.
The men’s second division squad scrums down May 8 at the Nor’Westers.
The official grand re-opening of the SARFC fields is June 21, but if the pitches are game ready the women’s team will play at home June 7.
There were no home games last year for SARFC teams because of reclamation work to the fields and other outdoor facility enhancements, which started in August of 2012.