It was a moment Aaron Flagg will never forget.
It was the evening of June 19, and rain was pouring down at the Municipal Mizuho Park Rugby Ground in Nagoya, Japan. Six thousand Japanese fans had braved the downpour to cheer on the home team vs. Canada in the final match of the Pacific Nations Cup tournament.
In the 61st minute, Canadian head coach Kieran Crowley tapped Flagg to come off the bench as a substitute, marking the Abbotsford Rugby Football Club product’s first cap with the senior men’s national team.
“The atmosphere was something else,” the 24-year-old marveled.
“The coach had told me at halftime to be ready to go in 10-15 minutes into the second half so my heart started racing. By the time the call finally came . . . I had settled down and was ready to go.”
Canada ended up dropping a 16-13 decision, narrowly ceding the trophy to Japan after opening the tourney with wins over the U.S., Fiji and Tonga. But that took none of the shine off Flagg’s milestone.
“Receiving my first cap has been a dream come true for me,” he said. “It is something I have worked long and hard for and it means a lot to have accomplished it. I’m looking forward to playing many more.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of the Abbotsford Rugby Club.”
Flagg grew up in New Zealand and moved to Chilliwack when he was 12. After graduating from Sardis Secondary, he lived in Abbotsford for two years before recently moving to Victoria to train with the national program. He spent four years playing for the ARFC.
Last October, he suited up for three games with Canada A, the national development squad, but the June 19 match represented his first game action with the senior 15’s. He’s hoping to suit up for the World Cup qualifiers in August, but selections for those games have not been made yet.