June 22nd, 2024

Cline, Tuttosi give Canada rugby women powerful one-two punch at hooker

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 18, 2024.

With the Canadian women already qualified for the 2025 Rugby World Cup by virtue of their fourth-place finish at the last tournament, coach Kevin Rouet is adding to the depth in his squad.

And nowhere is that more evident than at hooker.

Emily Tuttosi, named to World Rugby’s Women’s 15s dream team of the year in 2022 alongside Canada captain Sophie de Goede, has been finishing Canada matches at the Pacific Four Series while Edmonton’s Sara Cline starts.

Rouet has chosen that sequence with an eye to the future, noting his current bench features players who were starters at the elite WXV 1 tournament late last year.

“We need more people involved with this team if we want to believe we can win the World Cup,” Rouet said in the lead-up to third-ranked Canada’s game against No. 2 New Zealand in Christchurch on Sunday. “So there’s a short-term mindset but also a long-term mindset that we need to build the depth in this team. And giving Cline (consecutive) starts is part of that.”

“Tuttosi, she’s still a very good hooker for us and by doing that we have a very experienced bench,” added the French-born coach.

Rouet says while Cline is “very exiting” in both offence and defence, she’s still learning.

“She’s still fresh and new. You can see she doesn’t deliver exactly the same on the pitch what she delivers in training and I think we need to build around that.”

Cline has already come a long way on her rugby journey, moving to Australia earlier this year to join the Perth-based Western Force in the six-team Super W competition. A relatively new league, it started in 2018 as an amateur circuit.

“You get a lot of girls from all different levels,” Cline said. “I played with girls this season that were only on maybe their third season of rugby, which is great for Australia to see how quickly they can grow. It was competitive but I wouldn’t rate it as high as the England or French league.”

Cline is not sure where her club future lies, saying it will likely depend on Canada’s schedule.

Cline, who turns 27 on Tuesday, made her international debut off the bench in a 45-7 win over Australia at last July’s Pacific Four Series in Ottawa.

Her first start came April 28 in Canada’s 50-7 win over the U.S. in Carson, Calif., in the opener of this year’s Pacific Four Series. Cline then scored her first two tries for Canada in a 33-14 win over Australia on May 11 in Sydney, a game that saw her face off against several Force teammates.

Like Tuttosi, Cline has played a key part in a rampaging Canadian maul that has proved hard to stop. All five tries against the Wallaroos came from the Canadian pack, which proved near unstoppable off lineouts in the opposition end.

“I’m quite lucky to be at the back of it, for sure,” Cline said of the Canadian maul.

Cline made the move to Australia with an assist from Canadian teammate Gabbie Senft, who knew former Wallabies prop Greg Holmes from her time with England’s Exeter Chiefs. Holmes is now part of the Western Force’s academy coaching setup.

She told Holmes that Cline was interested in playing in Australia, which led to the move.

Things happened quickly. The club contacted Cline in mid-December and she left for Perth three days after getting her visa in early January.

“A very beautiful city,” she said of Perth, located on the coast in southwest Australia.

She played in six games for the Force, living with teammates from Japan, Brazil and Australia, before returning to Canada to join the national team.

Cline started rugby at high school and, after playing under-20 rugby provincially, attended the University of Lethbridge where she played five years. Her club side was Edmonton’s Leprechaun Tiger RFC.

Cline, who played for Canada at the under-20 level before university, found her way to the national team after Rouet spotted her in a provincial game last year.

A former flanker, she was converted to hooker by Rouet.

“There’s a lot to learn at hooker … It’s definitely challenging me in some really good ways, for sure,” said Cline.

Shortly after that, she won her first senior cap in Ottawa. Cline had five caps going into the New Zealand game.

“This tour has definitely opened my eyes quite quickly to how everything’s moving.” she said.

Cline says the more experienced Tuttosi, a 28-year-old from Souris, Man., who plays for Exeter, has helped her along the way.

“I think I’m more looking over her shoulder at her notes than she is at mine,” Cline said with a laugh. “But she has a lot of wisdom and I think that there’s a lot for me to learn from her, so I’m definitely just soaking in everything.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2024

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