One of the YouTube clips of Conor Trainor’s jaw-dropping try has been watched over 80,000 times.
Trainor joked that more than a few of the views were his own.
“Probably half of them were mine,” he said, laughing. “(The number of views) is cool for sure. But it was nice just to see so many people watching the Canadian team do well.”
The 24-year-old prop for Canada’s rugby team showed a sublime bit of skill with his soccer-style try back at the Glasgow Sevens tournament in May. Sprinting hell-bent for the try line at top speed, he took a long pass from Harry Jones off the top of his foot, flicking it up into his hands.
The try was a highlight of a strong season for Trainor, who called it the “best thing he’s done for Canadian rugby,” and he hopes to help Canada to a medal this week at the Commonwealth Games.
The flashy play was also voted “try of the year” in the IRB Sevens World Series, and had the television commentator breathlessly describing it as one Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo would be proud of.
“It’s nice to be compared to Ronaldo,” Trainor said of the Real Madrid striker. “I’d love to see what he could do with a rugby ball, I’m sure he could run down the field kicking it the whole time.”
Trainor’s acrobatic plays are nothing new to his teammates.
“I think the boys are pretty used to me doing crazy things,” Trainor said. “A lot of times it doesn’t come off, and luckily they’ll back me on that, they won’t yell at me, so it gives me the confidence to do things like that.”
Coach Kieran Crowley laughingly said he’s seen “a lot of times when it doesn’t work too.”
“It’s like anything else, if you’re practising every day, you develop a few skills. Conor does a few of those flashy things.
“He’s just got to get more accurate with the normal things,” Crowley kidded.
Trainor came by his soccer-style skills honestly. He grew up playing soccer in Vancouver, his club team playing international games against other youth clubs such as FC Barcelona’s.
“I’m definitely happy I came to rugby,” said the six-foot-two, 210-pound player. “But (soccer) is kind of what started me in elite sports. When I was young I was playing more soccer then than I’m playing rugby now, which is pretty crazy.”
Several members of Canada’s team, he pointed out, came to rugby as a second sport from lacrosse, football or soccer.
“And they just bring different skills to the table,” he said, after Canada’s practice Sunday.
The Canadians practised two hours at one of the University of Glasgow’s satellite sports facilities, which boasted eight fields for rugby, soccer and field hockey. Several Glasgow police officers, armed with semi-automatic weapons, stood guard.
The Canadian players took on Trinidad and Tobago in a scrimmage. The Canadians dropped down to do pushups after each tackle, team captain John Moonlight of Pickering, Ont., hollering directions throughout. They finished the afternoon with a shirts versus skins game before hitting the ice bath.
“I’m happy,” Crowley said, summing up the session. “We’ll have one more big session on Tuesday. It’s important we work harder in practice sessions than we will in the games.”
The team planned to head to the local go-kart track for some team bonding afterward. Apparently, Trainor is Canada’s best behind the wheel.
“Humbly, I’m the best go-karter on the team. I’m hoping we can get some bets before we go today,” he said, laughing.
“It’s always competitive. You have to be competitive,” said scrum-half Sean White. “Conor Trainor is the record-holder right now.”
It wasn’t just Trainor who made headlines at the Glasgow World Series stop — the Canadian side made history there by reaching the final for the first time. They edged Scotland in the semifinal before being trounced 54-7 by mighty New Zealand in the final.
Canada finished a best-ever sixth on this season’s Series, with two top-three results — second in Glasgow, and third in Las Vegas.
The eighth-ranked Canadians will be facing familiar foes here at the Games. They’re in Pool A with defending champion New Zealand, plus Scotland and Barbados. The top two in each pool move on to battle for the medals.
“If you’re going to win a tournament, you’ve got to beat everyone,” Crowley said. “We’re the only group with three core teams (Canada, New Zealand and Scotland). One core team is going to go home not very happy, just hope it’s not us.”
White said the Canadians take some comfort from their strong results in Scotland earlier this season.
“We can take what we did in that tournament. . . and Vegas as well, where we had the third-place finish,” said the Victoria native. “I think we got a little belief that we always knew we had in the group, but until you actually get there you don’t really know what it feels like.
“So we have that experience coming through and a lot of those core guys are back on this team. And we have the actual feeling and know-how of getting to that final again.”
Pool B has South Africa, Kenya, Cook Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago, Pool C features Samoa, Wales, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, while Pool D is made up of England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
The competition will take place Saturday and Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of approximately 46,000 at Ibrox Stadium, normally home to Glasgow Rangers soccer club.
“The crowd is going to be making a helluva lot of noise for Scotland. They’ll feed off the crowd,” Crowley said “It’s the Commonwealth Games too, it’s only once every four years. So some of these guys probably won’t be at the next (Games), so you’ve got to enjoy the moment I suppose.”
New Zealand has never lost at the Games, winning every gold.
The rugby players were among Canada’s first athletes to arrive at the athletes village when they landed in Glasgow on Wednesday, and raved Sunday about their experience here so far.
“The volunteers are very friendly, always chatting to you. . . may not understand exactly what they’re saying but they always have a smile on their face,” Trainor said. “We ventured downtown and got lost on the trains, and really nice people helped us get home. And they didn’t laugh at us too much.”