Canada to host first leg of Rugby World Cup qual­i­fier against Uruguay B.C. Place

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL SPORTS - By Joshua Clip­per­ton THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Kings­ley Jones got an early taste of what's wait­ing for him if he can get Canada past Uruguay and into the 2019 Rugby World Cup _ a lot of at­ten­tion from back home.

Hired last month as the new head coach of the Cana­dian men's na­tional team, the Welsh­man had been iden­ti­fy­ing tal­ent for his coun­try's rugby union when he ac­cepted the new po­si­tion on the other side of the At­lantic Ocean.

As he started to tell col­leagues about the move, most of Jones' con­ver­sa­tions veered to­wards the fact the win­ner of the two-legged tie be­tween Canada and Uruguay set for early next year will be placed in the same World Cup pool as Wales.

Welsh Rugby Union chair­man Gareth Davies had a sim­ple mes­sage for Canada's new boss.

“The first thing he says is, 'You can go, but you don't beat Wales,''' Jones re­called with a laugh. “It was on their radar, it was on ev­ery­one's radar straight away.''

Jones was in Van­cou­ver on Tues­day to meet the me­dia as part of the an­nounce­ment that Canada, ranked 24th in the world, will host the first leg of the ag­gre­gate qual­i­fy­ing se­ries against No. 18 Uruguay at B.C. Place Sta­dium on Jan. 27.

The re­turn fix­ture goes in South Amer­ica on Feb. 3.

Jones en­ters his new role in the deep end af­ter Canada missed out on a chance to qual­ify for the World Cup ear­lier this year in a two-legged se­ries with the United States.

Canada and the U.S. tied 28-28 in Hamil­ton be­fore the Amer­i­cans thumped their neigh­bours 52-16 in San Diego to grab the re­gion's first qual­i­fy­ing spot.

That de­mor­al­iz­ing set­back led to the dis­missal of Cana­dian head coach Mark An­scombe, and last month's hir­ing of Jones, who sees a lot of po­ten­tial, but un­der­stands the challenges he faces.

“The is­sues in in­ter­na­tional rugby is ev­ery­one moves for­ward, and if you stand still, you're dead,'' said the for­mer Welsh cap­tain, who coached Rus­sia from 2011 to 2014. “I'm fully con­fi­dent that with the play­ers we can bring back into the en­vi­ron­ment, we can do the job.''

A number of play­ers will be based at Rugby Canada's fa­cil­ity in Lang­ford, B.C., while many of the more tal­ented or wellestab­lished mem­bers of the squad will con­tinue to ply their trades pro­fes­sion­ally over­seas.

“There will be sur­prises,'' said Jones. “The big­gest thing is to have cen­tral­ized play­ers and to get your hands on them and coach them.''

Canada has never missed the World Cup, but has also never been ranked this low.

Should the Cana­di­ans lose on ag­gre­gate over two legs to Uruguay, there will be one more op­por­tu­nity to qual­ify via a repechage.

“I've got my eyes wide open. I know what it is,'' said Jones. “If I didn't think we could (make the World Cup), I wouldn't have taken that op­tion. I'd like to think I can help.

“I've got a short space of time. If I tried to come in here and rein­vent the wheel, we aren't go­ing to im­prove any­thing.''

Jones, who played and coached in Wales and Eng­land at club level, will get his first in-per­son look at Canada as head coach on Nov. 3 at B.C. Place against the Maori All Blacks.

He's been en­gross­ing him­self in his new team since tak­ing the job by break­ing down hour af­ter hour of video.

“I've watched the last 16 games,'' said Jones. “Six or eight of those games, I've watched in to­tal de­tail _ first about the team pat­tern and then about in­di­vid­u­als.''

An­scombe's test record with Canada was just 2-11-1 in his 16 months on the job, but he never re­ally got a chance to field his full team be­cause of in­juries and club com­mit­ments.

Jones wants to make sure there's no de­bate where al­le­giances lie.

“You can't se­lect when you want to play for your coun­try,'' he said. “I'll be find­ing play­ers that will walk to Ge­or­gia to play. It can't be a com­fort zone for peo­ple. Give peo­ple an easy op­tion, they'll take it more often than not.

“You have to make sure the play­ers are on their toes. No one is guar­an­teed their place.''

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