Rugby Union / University Match: Canadian Blues brothers beset by divided loyalties

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The Independent Online
UNITED they stood proud after helping Canada defeat Wales in last month's Cardiff international, divided one of them must fall unless this afternoon's 112th University match turns out to be the 14th draw of the series. Whatever the outcome, the Canucks are in opposing camps and coming to Twickenham.

On the one hand, the laid-back Gareth Rees, the Dark Blue stand- off with a light touch and big boot; on the other, the eager Chris Tynan, the Light Blue scrum-half whose solid game is ideally suited to playing the role of dark destroyer. Both have a common responsibility, to kick the goals that invariably win matches.

Against Wales, Rees did just that with a final conversion. The kicking of Tynan, though, has been less publicised but nevertheless recognised by Cambridge. So the pair, used to rooting for each other, will be shooting in opposition. As Rees put it: 'He'll have his nine-iron out and hopefully I'll have the driver.'

Friends and rivals. 'We've been team-mates in Wales together and we've roomed together, but there was noticeably more tension when we met the week before the match. Which is good. That's the way we both play. We're both winners,' Rees, who has partnered Tynan in 13 internationals, said.

'One thing,' Tynan admitted, 'he's got me on experience, though we started playing together when we were youngsters.' Tynan is 27 and Rees 26. The experience Tynan refers to is that Rees is eight caps further down the road and has played at Twickenham. 'This completes the set. It's the last stadium among the home countries that I have to play in.'

Rees, meanwhile, is quick to point out that the old place has been knocked about a bit since, as a Harrow schoolboy, he played brilliantly in defeat for Wasps in the 1986 cup final against Bath. 'The atmosphere has changed with the new stands. When I practised there a week ago, the wind was more consistent. Before, it tended to swirl.'

At the Arms Park last month, Rees collected 16 points with the boot. 'When I'm taking a kick, I just focus on the ball. The atmosphere and the height of the stands won't affect me. Rob Andrew and the boys did say, though, that it is very much more noisy now. But we'll get used it, I'm sure.'

Tynan is also confident. 'There may have been only 35,000 at the Arms Park when Canada played Wales, but there was still the emotion of the game. I've played in front of 60,000 in Argentina in a World Cup qualifier, but I haven't kicked in front of 60,000. It will be an experience,' he understated.

Tynan, who has a BA in political science from the University of British Columbia and is a graduate freshman reading land economy, has certainly done his homework on Rees. 'We'll be looking across at each other all afternoon. I know his game very well. Gareth is very good with his feet and when he is on form it is not just his place-kicking you have to worry about.

'He can punt the ball a good 60 yards or so and he also has a very good drop goal. He can also move the ball and can throw a mis-pass 30 yards across field to really open it up, which is dangerous. When he goes, it's usually off second or third phase ball. He'll call for a flat pass and because he's a really big boy he is hard to stop. If he decides to run it's because he can see the line.' The real problem? 'Well, I may know his game, but you can bet he knows mine.'

Rees, who has a BA in history from the University of Victoria, has also been swotting. 'Chris,' he said, 'is a very competent footballer. His strength is around the base of the scrum, whether in attack or defence. He has an excellent service. He is not a running type of scrum-half but he controls a game and gets the pack moving forward, which I think Cambridge have been wise to recognise.'

Rees's father, Alan, who has been visiting relatives in Wales, will be at the match. 'My parents are coming, too,' Tynan pointed out. Which sounds like quite a day out for the Canucks - this year and possibly next. Both players are keen to continue pursuing their sporting and academic life at Oxbridge and Rees has announced he will be joining Harlequins next month.

(Photograph omitted)