Tough rugby world cup for Canada

A regular sports column for the 100 Mile Free Press

Canada’s national men’s rugby team will be heading to Japan for the World Rugby Cup this month, which will take place from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2.

They finalized their 31-man squad on Sept. 3, and it’s pretty much what anyone would have expected with a mix of professional players and amateurs. Most of the players have been mainstays in the Canadian team, with only four players appearing in under 10 games.

Fans should not expect Canada to get past the group stage. With the likes of New Zealand and South Africa in the group, it’s pretty easy to see how the whole thing will pan out. Furthermore, Canada’s lacklustre performances in 2019 are not inspiring, winning only two games in 10 efforts. Only one of them was a competitive match, a 56-0 win over Chile in the Americas Rugby Championship. The other one was against the BC All-Stars as a warm-up match for the Rugby World Cup. They did almost beat (38-35) professional Irish side Leinster in another warm-up match, but Leinster was playing a weakened team with second and third-string players, as well as academy players.

In the 2015 World Cup, Canada came close to beating Italy (23-18) and Romania (17-15) but failed to win a single game. The outlook remains the same, but the team has a chance for redemption for the Italy game again this year. They also have a game against Namibia which should be very close if not winnable.

If Canada do end up pulling off an upset against Italy and beat Namibia, they will still be eliminated from play but automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup. This would be the ideal result but if we’re being honest, it will most likely end up in Italy’s favour.

Some key players for Canada will be Evan Olmstead, captain Tyler Ardron Ciaran Hearn, Conor Trainer, Jeff Hassler, Taylor Paris and DTH van der Merwe.

Most of these players, five of them being able to play on the wing, centre or/and fullback, are not in specialist positions. Canada is the weakest at the hooker, scrumhalf and flyhalf positions with either. The three hookers (Eric Howard, Benoît Piffero and Andrew Quattrin) all have less than 23 caps, with Quattrin at just two. It’s difficult to see who will be the top choice going into the tournament. Piffero usually came off the bench during the duration of the 32-year-old Montrealer’s career in red and white. Based on past future selections, Howard will probably be the first choice.

There is a mound of experience at scrumhalf, but the problem is all three players are over 30 (Phil Mack, Gordon McRorie and Jamie Mackenzie). The latter will mostly be used as injury cover, with Mack and McRorie getting rotated starts. Both are the polar opposites of each other. Mack likes to drive offensively, sometimes can get a little frantic but otherwise is solid for a team of Canada’s calibre. McRorie on the other hand, likes to play it cool and is typically laid back, but tends to slow play down in a way that sometimes hurts Canada.

As for flyhalf, well Canada hasn’t had a solid natural flyhalf since Gareth Rees in the late 80s and 90s. Pat Parfrey is in his first World Cup despite being in the Canadian setup since 2013. Shane O’Leary, 25, has only been capped 12 times but looks to be the future starting flyhalf for Canada for the time being.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Graffiti sprayed on 100 Mile Community Hall

‘We’re having a hard time through this COVID’

Have you been following the Justin Trudeau and WE Charity story?

The weekly web poll for the 100 Mile Free Press

Highway 97 to be repaved in 100 Mile House following complaints

‘It’s been over a month now since those holes have been developing’

South Cariboo piano students see success at online exams

‘I like learning new songs and then actually getting to play them well’

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Most Read