Tony Healy and Phil Mack are headed to Major League Rugby. The Canadian duo led the BC Bears to MacTier Cup glory in the Canadian Rugby Championship earlier this year in their first season in charge. They will now reprise their roles south of the border with Tony Healy taking over as Head Coach of the Seattle Seawolves and Phil Mack employed in a player-coach role. Healy is the first Canadian coach to join the MLR ranks with Mack the third player confirmed thus far joining Hubert Buydens and Eric Howard.
Healy, 48, won 15 caps as a lock for Canada between 1996 and 1999, playing the 1998 World Cup qualifier against Uruguay before missing out on the tournament itself the following year. He left James Bay to join Marmande in France in 1996 and spent the next eight years abroad playing professionally. During that time he would also suit up for Dax, Moseley, Auch, Bordeaux, and finally Bayonne. In 2004 Healy returned to Canada to pursue a teaching career at Brentwood College.
After coaching James Bay in the CDI Premier League and two years at the helm of Canada’s national u20 side, Healy stepped up to the senior provincial coaching ranks earlier this year in a bid to lift the perennial underachieving Bears to new height. He found success immediately, with the Bears claiming a thumping win over the Prairie Wolf Pack in the opener and finishing the tournament undefeated, with a one-point win over the defending champion Ontario Blues in the final.
Mack is a name well-known in the rugby world. The 32-year-old is among Canada’s greatest ever players in the sevens code, earning selection to the official HSBC Sevens Series Dream Team following the 2013-14 season. After more than 50 tournaments he retired from sevens duty in 2016 but remains an active player for Canada in the XV-a-side code, winning 41 caps as a scrumhalf since his debut in 2009.
This will be Mack’s second foray as a professional player outside of Canada. He signed a short-term deal with Ospreys in September 2013 though he did not ultimately make an appearance in the Guinness Pro Championship, instead he was loaned out to Welsh Premiership side Neath.
Major League Rugby will kick off its first regular season in April 2018. As many as eight teams across the USA are set to take part. More Canadian players are expected to join in the coming weeks.