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Seif Sanad looks to showcase East Coast rugby

The 18-year-old from Bedford will play as an underage player when the Canadian under-19 men's rugby championship begins on Monday in Truro.
Seif Sanad, an 18-year-old from Bedford, will play for Atlantic Rock as an underage player in the Canadian under-19 men's rugby championship. (CONTRIBUTED)

Seif Sanad wants to show the country how far East Coast rugby has come.

The 18-year-old from Bedford will play as an underage player when the Canadian under-19 men's rugby championship begins on Monday in Truro. The six-team tournament will be played in conjunction with the Canadian senior women's event.

"It's a big opportunity," he said as his team finished up its preparation on the weekend.

Atlantic Rock, featuring players from the entire Atlantic region, faces Prairie Blizzard in its tournament opener on Monday at 4 p.m.

Sanad, one of five Nova Scotians playing for the Rock in the tournament, is one of the region's brightest young talents and made a tour with Team Canada's under-18 team in France earlier this season.

Sanad starts the week with an injury but he still hopes to be available to his team.

He came to Canada from his native Egypt in Grade 8 and played high school football at C.P. Allen before turning his attention to rugby. He will enter Dalhousie this fall.

Sanad knew nothing of rugby when his family moved to Canada. His older brother began playing the sport and that caught his attention.

"He kept hyping it up and telling me I should play. He took me to a couple of practices. I really got into it."

By the time he was in Grade 10, he was playing on provincial teams and moving swiftly up the charts.

"When I moved here, I didn't really play any sports. I played soccer for a year but I didn't like it.

"I played football for two years and that's how I got into hitting and liking contact sports. When I played rugby, I felt like I fit way more in rugby."

He played two seasons of football and three seasons of rugby for the C.P. Allen Cheetahs. Sanad knew football had to go.

"I had to start training harder for rugby. We had tryout camps for Team Canada and I really wanted to make the team. And luckily I had an opportunity to play for them."

He was motivated by missing the under-19 team for nationals last year. He put in the work and beat the odds this year.

"I set my goals and happily I got on the team," Sanad said.

It won't be easy for the Atlantic side in Truro.

"We're not as good as B.C. and Ontario, but we're really getting there," he said. "We've improved a lot in the past three years. We stepped it up. Now when we play against them, we don't lose by a lot. We actually give them a good game and make it a competition.

"Everyone has started getting into it more since it got into the Olympics. There are more players coming out. It's getting harder to make teams now."

After Truro, Sanad hopes to be selected for the East regional training camp. Players from East and West camps will be used to select the under-19 team for a trip to England and Wales next year.

He is six-foot-two and 220 pounds. In his mind, he's not big enough yet to get where he wants to go in the sport. He plays senior rugby with the Halifax Tars, where the opponents can be much larger.

"I personally don't feel I'm big enough to be able to compete, but I try to work on it. So I've gained a little weight, but I didn't think I'm there. I'm still training to get there. I want to be able to compete with bigger guys."

Sanad will never forget his first chance to play for Canada.

"It was huge. For the first game, when we sang the national anthem, I started tearing up. I was extremely happy I had the opportunity to do that. But I was also nervous because I wasn't sure how I would perform, but it ended up pretty good."

Atlantic faces B.C. on Tuesday, with the semifinals on Thursday and the medal games on Saturday.


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