By NEIL DAVIDSON
The Canadian Press
Thursday, November 9, 2017
TORONTO -- Former Canadian international Adam Kleeberger, who won 38 caps for his country and drew worldwide attention as one of Canada's "beardos," is looking to help others follow in his rugby footsteps.
The 34-year-old former flanker from White Rock, B.C., has been appointed lead development strength and conditioning coach at the Rugby Canada Academy.
Based out of Belmont High School near the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence in Langford, B.C., Kleeberger will lead a high-performance program of 12 up-and-coming highschool athletes.
Nine girls and three boys were selected for the inaugural program through various talent identification sessions and provincial union recommendations. They will work with Kleeberger and other Rugby Canada high-performance staff.
"The main goal of the Rugby Canada Academy is to provide a high-performance daily training environment that gives young athletes the opportunity to become world-class athletes and compete for Canada on our national sevens and fifteens teams," Kleeberger said in a statement.
"Rugby players these days need to be bigger, stronger, faster and more well-rounded than ever before, and by giving these athletes rugby-specific training alongside Canada's Olympic centralized athletes at the home of Canadian rugby we believe they will be able to make the jump to the national team after high school."
The participating athletes will attend classes at Belmont.
Kleeberger retired from elite rugby in the summer of 2015. He played professionally for the Rotherham Titans and London Scottish in England and with Auckland in New Zealand.
Kleeberger, who has a degree in kinesiology, has most recently worked as strength and conditioning coach at the Canadian Sports Institute at the Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence in Victoria where he has assisted rowing and mountain biking teams.
He is contracted to Rugby Canada to run its academy.
Kleeberger made the most of his skills but paid a price for his physical approach to the game and willingness to sacrifice for the cause.
At the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, he memorably hurled his body at 262-pound All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock in a bid to prevent the behemoth from crossing the try-line.
The violent collision left both face down unconscious on the pitch.
They finally got up but had to leave the game.
During his career, he had two shoulder reconstructions and suffered continuing back pain from disc and nerve issues.
Kleeberger played in two Rugby World Cups and won notoriety as of Canada's "beardos" at the 2011 tournament. Kleeberger and fellow forwards Hubert Buydens and Jebb Sinclair went into the tournament with mountain men beards, drawing attention from around the globe.
Rick Mercer shaved off Kleeberger's beard after the tournament on TV to raise funds for cancer research and earthquake relief aid for Christchurch, New Zealand.
Kleeberger debuted for Canada in November, 2005, against France in Nantes. He also represented his country at the under-19 and under-21 levels and played sevens for Canada at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.