Canada's Al Charron entering World Rugby Hall of Fame
Ex-team captain was 'heartbeat of team' known for good decision-making
Former Canada captain Al Charron is headed to the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
The 51-year-old Ottawa native won 76 caps for Canada, a national record that stood for 14 years until broken by Aaron Carpenter in June. Charron played in four Rugby World Cups and was a trailblazer for Canadian rugby, playing overseas for Bristol and Moseley in England and Dax in France.
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"One of the most dominant loose forwards in the world during the 1990s," the Hall of Fame said in its announcement.
Charron was a physical presence, a six-foot-five 255-pound slab of a man known for making crunching tackles on defence and rampaging through opposition forwards on offence. It was a style of play that took its toll on everyone concerned.
Al is one of those guys who always does the right thing.— Canadian prop Rod Snow once said of Hall of Famer Al Charron
A hard man whose nickname was Blade, Charron once played with a broken rib.
"There are two kinds of captains," veteran Canadian prop Rod Snow once said. "Captains who always do the right thing and captains who always say the right thing.
"Al is one of those guys who always does the right thing, I think sometimes that carries a lot more weight than words."
"If he's doing it, then you should probably do the same thing," prop Kevin Tkachuk echoed.
Charron will be joined at the Nov. 10 induction ceremony in Rugby, England, by Argentina's Felipe Contepomi, England's Rob Andrew, France's Fabien Pelous and American Phaidra Knight.
"It's a huge honour," Charron said in an interview. "I'm not really sure what to say about it but I'm pretty thrilled just to be considered. But to be actually inducted, well it's fantastic."
The talismanic Charron joins Gareth Rees and Heather Moyse as the only Canadians in the Hall, whose members will number 137 with the new class.
Rees was inducted in 2011 and Moyse in 2016.
Charron captained Canada 25 times, a record he shares with Rees. He represented Canada at the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993 and played for the storied Barbarians five times.
'The man everybody follows'
Charron debuted against Argentina in 1990, making his final appearance at the 2003 World Cup against Tonga. At the age of 37, Charron amazingly returned four months after surgery to repair torn anterior and medial collateral ligaments and meniscus to make the 2003 tournament in Australia.
"He's the heartbeat of the team," coach David Clark said at the time. "He's the man that everybody follows and reveres."
Charron exited on his shield, stretchered out of a beachside stadium in Wollongong after being felled by a ferocious shoulder tackle from 227-pound Tongan fly half Pierre Hola. Shockingly there was no penalty on the play.
Charron was unconscious before he hit the turf, blood pouring from his face and neck splayed at an ungodly angle. After getting 16 stitches in his lower lip and gums, Charron walked gingerly back into the team hotel to a standing ovation from his teammates.
He said he planned to have a few beers, "though not as many as I had projected."
More often than not, it was Charron that left the mark. He bulled his way over for the last-minute try that, with a Rees conversion, gave Canada a historic 26-24 win over Wales in 1993 in Cardiff.
He remains a physical presence to this day. Getting up, Charron unfolds like a giant deck chair. Shaking hands with the big man is like watching your fist disappear in a giant ball of dough.
Contepomi a stylish fly half
Charron's legacy in Canada is already assured. Rugby Canada's new facility in Langford, B.C., nearing completion, is named the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre.
Charron is currently Rugby Canada's manager of player advancement and alumni relations. He is already a member of the Eastern Ontario Hall of Fame, Ontario Rugby Hall of Fame, and Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.
Contepomi, who played in four World Cups, scored 651 points in 87 tests. A stylish fly half, he directed Argentina's attack in a 15-year career.
Andrew collected 396 points for England and added 11 more in five test appearances for the British Lions on 1989 and 1993 tours. He made his England debut at fly half in 1985, playing in three Grand Slam-winning sides in the 1990s and three World Cups.
Andrew went on to become an England rugby administrator after his playing career.
Pelous is France's all-time cap-holder with 118 test appearances from 1995 to 2007. He was the first second-rower and only the second Frenchman after Philippe Sella to win 100 caps. He captained France 42 times, including at two Rugby World Cups.
Knight won 33 caps for the U.S. and played at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups. The flanker, prop and hooker was named USA Rugby Player of the Decade in 2010.
"Each of these five inductees has made a positive impression on the sport, in their own countries and around the world, that will last the test of time," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.