World Cup Preview: Canada
POOL B SPOTLIGHT: After only just scraping into the World Cup via the backdoor, merely qualifying for the tournament will feel like a victory for Canada.
Having once been the undisputed powerhouses of North American rugby, Canada’s fortunes have been on a downward spiral over the past decade.
A proud record of appearing at every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987 was only preserved via victory in the repechage event in Marseille last November.
That earned them a place in Pool B alongside mighty New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia.
The prospect of facing the All Blacks in their second game in Oita on October 2 provides a stark reminder of how far Canada has fallen since their golden era of the early 1990s, when they were competitive in a 29-13 quarter-final defeat by the Kiwis.
Since that 1991 tournament, however, Canada has never progressed from the pool stage, and there is zero realistic chance of that trend being reversed in Japan.
Captain Tyler Ardron, who plays for the Chiefs in Super rugby, admits that the best Canada can hope for is two wins against Italy and Namibia which would enable the team to qualify directly for the 2023 tournament.
Even that target may prove beyond them though if recent results are anything to go by.
The Canadians head into the tournament with just one win in seven internationals, a victory over South American minnows Chile in February in the Americas Rugby Championship.
Canada’s decline is reflected in the team’s freefall down the international rankings.
As of late August, they are outside the top 20, with improving teams like Russia, Spain, Uruguay, Romania and Georgia all ahead of them.
Ardron will provide experience and skill for the Canadian pack, while veteran Glasgow Warrior utility player DTH Van der Merwe adds attacking thrust in the backs.
— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) September 11, 2019
Player to watch:
Tyler Ardron. The 28-year-old captain is an all-action number eight/lock who spent four years with Ospreys in Wales and is now with the Chiefs in New Zealand.
Aim for the tournament:
“Being realistic, we just want to play as well as we can. Hopefully
we’ll do ourselves proud and play as well as we are able,” captain Tyler Ardron
Population: 37 million
Coach: Kingsley Jones (Wales/September 2017)
Number of registered players: 28,966 (as of 2016)
World Rugby ranking : 22 (September 9, 2019)
World Cup past record:
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 11, 2019
Pool matches (all times GMT):
Italy v Canada
Date: September 26
New Zealand v Canada
Date: October 2
South Africa v Canada
Date: October 8
Namibia v Canada
Date: October 12
Backs: Nick Blevins (Calgary Hornets), Andrew Coe (Markham Irish), Jeff Hassler (Seattle Seawolves/USA), Ciaran Hearn (unattached), Ben LeSage (Calgary Canucks), Phil Mack (Seattle Seawolves/USA), Jamie Mackenzie (Toronto Arrows), Gordon McRori(Calgary Hornets), Peter Nelson (unattached), Shane O’Leary (Nottingham/ENG), Patrick
Parfrey (Toronto Arrows), Taylor Paris (Castres/FRA), Conor Trainor (USO Nevers/FRA), DTH van der Merwe (Glasgow Warriors/SCO)
Forwards: Tyler Ardron (captain, Chiefs), Kyle Baillie (New Orleans Gold/USA), Justin Blanchet (unattached), Hubert Buydens (unattached), Luke Campbell (Toronto Arrows), Matt Heaton (Rugby ATL/USA), Eric Howard (New Orleans Gold/USA), Jake Ilnicki (Seattle Seawolves/USA), Cole Keith (Toronto Arrows), Conor Keys (unattached), Evan
Olmstead (unattached), Benoit Piffero (Blagnac SCR/FRA), Andrew Quattrin (Toronto Arrows), Lucas Rumball (Toronto Arrows), Djustice Sears-Duru (Seattle Seawolves/USA), Mike Sheppard (Toronto Arrows), Matt Tierney (Castres/FRA).