Editor’s note: we were unable to reach Ashley Gordon for comment before competition. 

Another women’s rugby player from McMaster has got the call from Rugby Canada.

Ashley Gordon, a second-year athlete from Brampton, Ont., will represent Canada at the International University Sports Federation (FISU) World University Sevens tournament in Swansea, United Kingdom from July 7-9.

FISU is a sports organization that creates global events specifically for university athletes.

For Gordon, the nomination is the next step in her rugby career. After two years at McMaster – including the 2015 CIS championship season – Gordon moved to Langford, B.C. to be centralized with Rugby Canada’s Centre of Excellence.

Centralization means athletes live and train full-time with the national sports federation in order to best prepare them for a career with the Canadian national teams.

It is a significant investment for both Rugby Canada and the athletes.

“Athletes that are targeted for sevens are centralized 11 months of the year out there and train six days a week. It includes everything they need to prepare to be a national team athlete,” said Shaun Allen, head coach of the McMaster women’s rugby program and assistant coach with Rugby Canada’s senior women’s national team.

Gordon is one of the 25-30 athletes in the full-time training environment.

The sevens game has received a significant increase in funding through the “Own the Podium” program, a not-for-profit organization that provides funding for potential Canadian Olympians.

While the 15-a-side game is played at the CIS level and more well-known, it is the sevens style of play that is going to be at the Olympics for the first time in 2016. 15s is extremely taxing on athletes and takes much longer to complete a tournament.

According to Allen, Gordon’s strengths play right in to what the sevens game needs.

“Ashley fits a lot of the athletic components to being a good sevens player. She’s tall, she’s very fast, she’s very athletic and agile,” said the Mac bench boss.

“From a more tactical standpoint, she has very good vision and passing skills. She can apply the speed and put the defence under pressure, even at the international level.”

Gordon is on track to be considered for the sevens squad that will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To do that, she would likely need to continue to train in B.C. and learn more about the international game. Her future with McMaster is up in the air.

Allen said when he recruited Gordon and some other athletes around her age, they were explicit in telling them the Mac coaching staff wanted to see their players compete internationally.

Whether that was FISU, Rugby World Cups or the Olympics was not important, just getting players in the red and white mattered.

“If that means Ashley has done a year or year and a half at McMaster and moves into that [Rugby Canada] training environment, that’s amazing, frankly,” said Allen.

In the short term, the program loses a solid player. But in the long-term, McMaster women’s rugby stands to benefit because it shows that coming to Mac can be the first step in working with Rugby Canada. For recruits with national team dreams, that will be hard to ignore.

Meanwhile, the FISU tournament adds to Gordon’s international resume. She won silver at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China and played with the Rugby Canada Maple Leafs – a development team for up-and-coming athletes.

Earning a spot on the Olympic national team is a long process, but all signs point to Gordon having a shot. She already earned gold for the maroon and grey, maybe one day she will do the same for the red and white.

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