Cana­dian men gear up for cru­cial Rugby World Cup qual­i­fy­ing match

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVID­SON

Canada rugby coach Kings­ley Jones has been work­ing the phones in re­cent days, con­tact­ing clubs and play­ers in Europe about assem­bling all his weapons for a cru­cial World Cup qual­i­fy­ing se­ries against Uruguay.

So far, so good.

Jones and a con­tin­gent of do­mes­tic-based play­ers left Fri­day for Lon­don and a train­ing camp with his Euro­pean-based tal­ent.

Over­seas pros DTH van der Merwe, Tay­lor Paris, Jeff Hassler, Tyler Ar­dron, Matt Heaton, Shane O’Leary, Djus­tice Sears-Duru, Matt Tier­ney, Benoit Pif­fero, Evan Olm­stead, Kyle Bail­lie and Brett Beuke­boom have all been in­cluded in the camp.

“It’s still a mov­ing pic­ture,” said Jones, his fin­gers no doubt crossed that his play­ers get through week­end matches.

“Good to see the guys all ready,” he added. “I think ev­ery­one un­der­stands the im­por­tance of th­ese fix­tures for us and for Canada. I’ve been re­ally sup­ported by all the club coaches.”

While World Rugby’s Reg­u­la­tion 9 man­dates clubs have to re­lease play­ers for World Cup qual­i­fy­ing matches, Jones has been talk­ing to coaches about how much time he can have the play­ers and how much work they will get go­ing into the key in­ter­na­tional se­ries.

Canada, ranked 21st in the world, stum­bled at its first at­tempt at mak­ing the 2019 World Cup when it lost a two-game ag­gre­gate se­ries in the sum­mer to the 17th-ranked Amer­i­cans. The teams tied 28-28 in Hamil­ton be­fore the U.S. romped to a 52-16 win in San Diego.

That cost coach Mark An­scombe his job and sent the Cana­di­ans to a matchup with No. 18 Uruguay with the win­ner slot­ting into Pool D along with No. 4 Aus­tralia, No. 7 Wales, No 10 Fiji and No. 12 Ge­or­gia at the 2019 tour­na­ment in Ja­pan.

The Canada-Uruguay loser has one last chance to qual­ify at a global repechage tour­na­ment, with one tour­na­ment berth at stake.

Canada hosts Uruguay on Jan. 27 at Van­cou­ver’s B.C. Place Sta­dium be­fore trav­el­ling to Mon­te­v­ideo for the Feb. 3 re­match in the to­tal­points se­ries.

“They’re a re­ally good side,” said Jones, a for­mer Welsh in­ter­na­tional who took over as Canada coach in Septem­ber. “They’re con­fi­dent. They haven’t lost in a long time. They fancy their chances. So it will be a chal­lenge. But you’ve got to be very pos­i­tive when you’re the coach, but also have re­spect and be real about the chal­lenge.

“So I’m very con­fi­dent that we can do the job, but we need to go well.”

The Lon­don train­ing camp in­cludes a joint train­ing sched­ule with the English club side Har­lequins, along with a con­trolled game against Ox­ford.

Ciaran Hearn and An­drew Coe, both in­jured in Canada’s fi­nal Novem­ber test match against Fiji, along with Conor Trainor and Matt Evans are unavail­able due to in­jury.

But sevens vet­er­ans Connor Braid and Ad­mir Ce­j­vanovic are back with the 15s team.

Also in Fe­bru­ary, the Cana­dian men will take part in the Amer­i­cas Rugby Cham­pi­onship along with the U.S. Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Ar­gentina ‘A.’ The round-robin tour­na­ment runs Jan. 27 to March 3 at mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions in North and South Amer­ica.

Canada opens Feb. 10 against the U.S. in Sacra­mento be­fore host­ing Brazil on Feb. 17 at Lang­ford, B.C.. Canada vis­its Ar­gentina on Feb. 24 and Chile on March 3.

Many of the over­seas pros are likely to re­turn to their clubs af­ter the World Cup qual­i­fy­ing se­ries al­though Jones said that is up to ne­go­ti­a­tion.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Rugby Canada men’s na­tional team head coach Kings­ley Jones passes a ball while pos­ing for a pho­to­graph af­ter he was in­tro­duced as the new coach of the team in late Oc­to­ber.

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