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Melissa Kanuk is on the road to World Cup

Melissa Kanuk is going places.

The 1999 Bethlehem Central High School graduate is in England this week with the United States National Elite Rugby Team for the start of the Nations Cup an international tournament that serves as a warm-up for the 2010 World Cup.

This is Kanuk's second trip to England with the U.S. National Team. She was there with the Women Eagles during their most recent trip in December.

We do hope to make a statement out there and turn some heads," said Kanuk before she left Saturday.

Kanuk was chosen out of a pool of approximately 60 players nationwide to join the elite team for the Nations Cup, which will also feature national teams from England and Canada.

"During the year, they have events that they will invite you to," said Kanuk. "You can be invited to events and never be invited to play on the (World Cup) team."

Kanuk's rugby career started when she arrived at American University in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1999.

"I went there to try to play soccer as a walk-on, but I soon decided that I didn't want to play a varsity sport. So, I looked for a club sport to try," said Kanuk. "My roommate and I went to dining hall one day, and the women's rugby team had walked in from a practice. We were pretty much surrounded by them, so I asked them about the team, and they told me all about it."

What Kanuk learned about rugby led her to join the team. By the spring of 2000, she was playing every match, even though the sport " which closely resembles American football minus the use of protective helmets and pads " was foreign to her.

"Some things (about rugby) were more natural (to me) than others," she said. "I had come from a background of playing mostly soccer and basketball, so the concept of the game was different."

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