Reflecting on Canada’s Nathan Hirayama

Where does one begin to speak about the legacy and impact Nathan Hirayama brought to Canadian Rugby?

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old Richmond, British Columbia native announced his retirement from Canadian Rugby, leaving behind a legacy that’s hard to beat, not only amongst North American rugby players, but amongst global legends of the game.

It would take hours to go through all of Hirayama’s accomplishments but we’ve compiled a few of the most notable highlights: 

  • Debuted for Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team at Dubai Sevens at 18-years-old
  • Made his Men’s XV debut against Portugal in 2008 for Rugby Canada
  • First-ever Father-Son due to represent Canada, as dad Gary also represented both codes of the game during the 1980s and was a part of the first team to compete at the Hong Kong Sevens
  • Winner of the inaugural Canadian Rugby Championship in 2009 with the BC Bears
  • 2010 Rounsefell Cup BC Rugby Champion with UVIC Vikes
  • Helped Canada finish 7th at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Kazan, Russia and finished the tournament as top points scorer.
  • Competed at the 2009, 2013, 2018 editions of the Rugby World Cup Sevens
  • Silver medal finish at the 2014 Glasgow Sevens
  • Hirayama is also a two-time Pan-American Games Gold Medal winner, including 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico 2015 in Toronto, Ontario. Also won a silver-medal in 2019 in Lima, Peru
  • Competed at the 2010, 2014, 2018 Commonwealth Games for Canada
  • Four appearances off the bench at the 2015 Rugby World Cup
  • Helped Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team lift their first and only Cup Trophy in Singapore on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
  • Four starts at the 2015 Rugby World Cup
  • In June 2021, he was named co-captain of Team Canada’s 2020 Summer Olympic Games Team for Rugby Canada and competed in the Tokyo 2020 Games, delayed to 2021 
  • Alongside Canadian Women’s Basketball player, Miranda Ayim, Hirayama was given the honour of being Canada’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games
  • Canada’s all-time leading points scorer on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
  • 23 caps for Canada’s Men’s Fifteens Team, including scoring 47 points
  • Third all-time points-scorer on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series:
  • 1st – Ben Gollings – England – 2652
  • 2nd – Tomasi Cama – New Zealand – 2028
  • 3rd – Nathan Hirayama – Canada – 1859
  • 4th – Dan Norton – England – 1784 
  • -363 matches on World Series
  • -559 Conversions
  • -Average of 5.12 points per game

Despite the impressive list, Hirayama’s legacy is about more than stats. The 6’0 feet, 205lbs playmaker has helped introduce countless generations of rugby players and fans to the game from Vancouver to St. John’s, Tokyo to Cape Town and beyond. 

Whether it was laughing with reporters during press conferences or happily throwing perfect spin passes with HSBC Rookie Rugby during Sunday afternoon sessions to give back to the community, he’s always had a smile on his face. 

Hirayama has his own distinctly calm and easy going personality amongst a sport of pure octane and intensity. He’s tackled the biggest names in the game, outstepped the silkiest opponents, mentored some of Canada’s best, rubbed shoulders with the game’s elite, withstood the test of time and slotted thousands of points through the uprights.  

Nathan Hirayama is a true legend, who exemplified the values of the game we love, on and off the field. On Behalf of Rugby Canada, thank you for everything. Your legacy lives on in the countless young athletes you’ve inspired. We can’t wait to see what you do next.