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Canada women's coach Kevin Rouet puts engineering career aside to focus on rugby

Six years ago Kevin Rouet gave up his day job as an engineer to focus on rugby. Today he is in charge of Canada at the Women's Rugby World Cup, which kicks off this weekend in New Zealand.
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Canada women’s rugby coach Kevin Rouet is shown in a 2022 handout photo. Six years ago Rouet gave up his day job as an engineer to focus on rugby. Today he is in charge of Canada at the Women's Rugby World Cup, which kicks off this weekend in New Zealand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Rugby Canada-Chad Hipolito **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Six years ago Kevin Rouet gave up his day job as an engineer to focus on rugby.

Today he is in charge of Canada at the Women's Rugby World Cup, which kicks off this weekend in New Zealand. Rouet and the third-ranked Canadians open Pool B play Saturday night against No. 13 Japan at the Northlands Event Centre in Whangarei.

Born in France, the 35-year-old Rouet is a mechanical engineer as well as a rugby coach. He believes the two are a good match.

"I'm very organized. I know that's something I learned when you study," he said. "There's maybe sometimes too much structure in my mind but I know some times those girls need that."

That structure shows, says veteran flanker Karen Paquin.

"He's a very good coach," Paquin said of Rouet. "He's very rugby-focused. He sees the game … We have to learn a lot of the reads. It's quite challenging but he's very clear in his vision and he knows where he wants to take us.

"It's been a collective growth and it's really exciting."

The 35-year-old Paquin knows of what she speaks. She put a career as a chemical engineer on hold to pursue her rugby dream. New Zealand will be the third World Cup for the former sevens star.

"We both have a lot of rugby. That kind of took over," she said.

Rouet obtained his master's degree in engineering from Ecole nationale superieure d'Arts et Metiers (ESNAM), an engineering and research institute of higher education in Paris. He was 23 when he moved to Quebec, earning a master's degree in project management from the University of Quebec at Rimouski.

Initially he just planned to spend two years studying in Quebec. But he stayed on after getting a project manager job with Canam Engineering, working in bridge construction.

Some five years into the job, he quit to focus on rugby,

"Six years ago I just decided I can't do both of them at the same time efficiently," he said. "I was not efficient with my job as an engineer because I did too much rugby. And I was not efficient with my rugby because I did too much engineering.

"So I had to pick one and I just picked rugby because you have more fun coaching rugby than being an engineer," he added with a laugh.

His wallet took a hit but he said it was a career choice dictated by "passion." He wanted to pursue coaching — and he knew he could always return to the day job.

As a player, Rouet saw action as a scrum half, fly half and inside centre at club level. He started in the under-19 and under-21 ranks with Stade Francais in Paris before shifting to his home club in Nemours, southeast of the French capital.

After coming to Canada, Rouet continued playing with the Club de Rugby de Quebec before devoting himself to coaching.

He had started coaching in France, working with young boys. He started coaching women with Club de Rugby de Quebec.

"They needed a coach and I was young and I had time to kill," he said.

He liked it and added coaching gigs at the high school and college level. In 2016, he got involved with the Quebec provincial team. A year later, Laval University needed a coach.

"Every time a door opened, I just took it," he said. "I specialized (in coaching) on the women's side but I'm very open to coaching men. It's just in Quebec the women's side is strong."

Rouet was elevated to head coach of the women's national team in March when Rugby Canada parted ways with Sandro Fiorino, for whom Rouet was assistant coach for four years.

In taking over the Canadian team, he took a sabbatical from all his other coaching jobs including his work at Laval, the Quebec provincial team and the Stade Bordelais academy side he had worked with back in France.

"I have no idea after World Cup what my life will be … We'll see," he said.

Rouet, who is single, has "a place to stay" in Quebec City but has been on the move so much he reckons he has spent perhaps two weeks there over the last eight months.

"Quebec is my home but I'm not there a lot," he said.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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