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  • Monday, October 11, 1999

    Canadian faces hearing at World Cup

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- The Canadian Press
     TOULOUSE, France (CP) -- Canadian rugby players have a history of sticking together and that bond has earned John Hutchinson an unwanted side trip to London today to answer disciplinary charges at the World Cup.
     The Victoria flanker, who plays professionally for Suntory in Japan, was cited Monday for striking Marika Vunibaka after the Fijian winger head-butted Canadian centre Kyle Nichols in the dying seconds of Saturday's 38-22 loss.
     Replay seemed to show that Hutchinson pulled his punch at the last moment, turning it into a mild forearm shove.
     Vunibaka was red-carded and faces almost certain suspension but Hutchinson's reaction seemed minor in comparison.
     Hutchinson and team officials declined comment Monday on the incident.
     The summons caught the player by surprise, however, forcing him to borrow roommate Mike James' team blazer since his was at the cleaners.
     It isn't the first time Canadians have been in hot water at the World Cup.
     Prop Rod Snow and fly half Gareth Rees were ejected with South African James Dalton in Canada's final game of the '95 tournament after taking exception to the way Canadian winger Winston Stanley was tackled into the sideline advertising boards in a tackle by Pieter Hendricks.
     All of the red-carded players, along with Hendricks and Canadian Scott Stewart who also came to Stanley's defence, were subsequently suspended.
     The incident marked the first time in international rugby that three players had ever been ejected in a game.
     Hutchinson is just one of several World Cup players hauled on the carpet after weekend incidents. The Australia-Ireland game featured a punch-up that also prompted summons.
     At six foot four and 240 pounds, Hutchinson is a big man who unfolds rather stands when getting up from a chair. With close-cropped hair and a goatee, he exudes more than a little menace but says he leaves the big hits to others in his team.
     "I'm not a hitter like Danny (Baugh) is. He crushes guys. My style is a little bit different. I'll grab a guy, flip him and try to bring the ball on our side."
     Decorum is important to Hutchinson in his role with the Suntory team in Japan. One of his teammates on the squad is former Canadian international Glen Ennis, whose livelihood in Japan was endangered when he tested positive for cocaine while playing for Canada.
     The suspension was later lifted, with some provisions, when an arbitrator accepted Ennis's explanation that he had no idea how the drug entered his system during a birthday drinking bash in Vancouver.
     The reprieve came in the nick of time for Ennis, who had been told to clear his name or else by Suntory, given Japan's distaste towards drugs.
     Hutchinson, 30, has been a model citizen since joining Suntory after a year playing for the IBM team in Japan.
     Hutchinson has a three-bedroom flat at his disposal in a Tokyo suburb, thanks to Suntory. He loves it, despite being in a city of 22 million.
     "The people there are so friendly that you don't really feel like you're in a major city."
     He's working on his Japanese, but hasn't been there for six months because of World Cup preparations so his language skills have eroded slightly.
     His girlfriend Lara lives in their home in Victoria and visits Japan, although not usually during rugby season. Hutchinson prefers to focus on rugby, relaxing in a bowling alley when not playing or training.
     In Victoria, you may find him fishing on his new salmon boat along with teammates Bobby Ross and Mark Cardinal.
     Hutchinson grew up in Toronto, attending York University before moving to B.C. to further his rugby career. He now has 45 caps, ranking seventh on the all-time list, and makes no secret of his feelings about playing for Canada.
     "I've played on this team since '92 basically. We're like brothers," he said. "Everything together.
     "There's no real cliques or animosity between individuals, we work everything out. We all support each other. If someone has a bad game, if I have a bad game, someone will come up to me and say 'Hey, sorry about that but let's move on.' You can't dwell on it because we all have bad games.
     "That's what makes this team such a strong-knit group of guys."
     Those ties have helped the current Canadian team survive a string of 10 losses, a streak that should end Thursday against Namibia.
     "It's been a rough year and it's been a year that could be self-destructing," Hutchinson said. "We could have got on each other but we didn't. That just shows what class these players have and how much we mean to each other."


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