Landry leads X into CIS womenís rugby event
By GLENN MacDONALD Sports Reporter
Tue. Nov 3 - 4:45 AM

St. Francis Xavier star Ghislaine Landry is ready for the CIS womenís rugby championship this weekend at UBC. (INGRID BULMER / Staff)

WHAT GREAT bookends Canadian Interuniversity Sport titles would make.

And what better send-off it would be for St. Francis Xavierís Ghislaine Landry, the greatest womenís rugby player to ply her trade in the Atlantic conference, than to win a national championship in what may be her final university season.

Landry, a four-time Atlantic conference MVP, twice a winner of the Canadian university player of the year and the all-time point-getter in the CIS (342 points), won a national title as a rookie at X in 2006.

Three years later, the X-Women are one of the favourites to win their second CIS championship when the six-team womenís rugby tournament opens Friday at UBC. The team flies out today for Vancouver.

"We have won there, so we know what it takes," said Landry, a fourth-year human kinetics student whoís leaning towards not returning to St. F.X. for a fifth season.

"Itís especially important for the veteran players to put that out to the rookies. All they know in university is the AUS. Itís a big thing we have to pass on to them and get in their heads that CIS is not the same as AUS.

"The AUS league has gotten better but the CIS is a different level and a different game. Itís faster, itís quicker, itís tougher, itís more aggressive."

This is the 12th trip to nationals for the X-Women, who have won every AUS championship since womenís rugby became a varsity sport in 1998.

They qualified thanks to another dominant season in the Atlantic conference. St. F.X. ran the table in posting a 7-0 record ó including a 67-7 shellacking of Saint Maryís in the AUS championship Saturday ó and outscored its opponents 423-26.

But the X-Women are not a one-horse squad. They have threats at nearly every position, including the likes of wing Courtnay Malcolm, centres Lisa Gauthier and Amanda Thornborough and No. 8 Tyson Beukeboom, the daughter of former NHL defenceman Jeff Beukeboom.

In fact, nine X players scored at least one try in the AUS final.

"We have threats all over the field," said Landry, who collected a pair of tries in the conference final.

"Itís tough on the defence when you have a team that can score from anywhere. You just canít target one area, you canít target the outside or you canít target the inside. We have the potential to score from anywhere."

Despite the balanced attack and the perennial appearances at nationals, let alone their í06 championship, Landry said St. F.X., and the Atlantic conference in general, doesnít receive much respect from its CIS counterparts.

"The rest of the CIS didnít give us or the AUS any respect in my first year," recalled Landry, a native of Toronto. "The media, in all the interviews, didnít ask us a single question. They didnít respect the league at all and we went out and won it that year.

"As a league, and as a representative of the league, we have stepped it up as a notch. And the rest of the league has stepped up a notch as well. The league has gotten better, especially since my first year.

"But little respect is ever given to the AUS because weíre small town and we they think we only win because weíre in the AUS. We have the potential to be the best in the country. One of these days weíll get the respect we deserve. But Iíll take being the underdog any day."

St. F.X. opens the round-robin Friday (2 p.m. AT) against the host UBC Thunderbirds. The X-Women then face the Guelph Gryphons later that evening (7 p.m. AT).

Dominating their conference year after year, surprisingly, has its downside. In the past, Landry said, the X-Women have suffered some sort of a letdown in their opening match at nationals.

Come Friday, Landry will be stressing to her mates the importance of being at their zenith against UBC.

"Because we dominate out here (the AUS), that first game at nationals, we have had a tough time getting focused and had some slow starts," Landry said.

"In the Ontario league, week in, week out, they have had consistent competition. Thereís always that chance to lose. But (in the AUS), itís tough not to think about a 75-0 win.

"Everyone has to come back down before nationals and reassess. Thatíll be the difference in B.C. It shows how important that first game at nationals really is."

The Lethbridge Pronghorns are vying for their third straight CIS womenís rugby title. The Canada West champions defeated St. F.X. 29-15 in last yearís final. The Pronghorns also earned a 17-12 exhibition victory over the X-Women in Antigonish on Sept. 13.

The semifinals are slated for Saturday with the medal games are scheduled for Sunday.

The Quebec conference champion Concordia Stingers and Ontario finalist Western Mustangs round out the remaining of the field.

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