Rum­ball to cap­tain Canada in game against Rus­sian rugby squad

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS - NEIL DAVID­SON

Flanker Lu­cas Rum­ball will cap­tain Canada and fly half Theo Sauder makes his first start on Saturday when the na­tional team takes on Rus­sia at Ottawa’s Twin Elm Rugby Park. The 22-year-old Rum­ball takes over as skip­per from winger DTH van der Merwe, who in­jured his calf in last Saturday’s 48-10 loss to Scot­land in Ed­mon­ton. Van der Merwe was fill­ing in for cap­tain Tyler Ar­dron, a back­rower who is un­avail­able af­ter fail­ing to pass a con­cus­sion test in the wake of an in­jury sus­tained play­ing for the Chiefs in New Zealand.

Coach Kings­ley Jones says while van der Merwe is not a long-term ca­su­alty, he won’t be back in time for the June 23 test against the United States in Halifax. Van der Merwe, who plays for the Glas­gow War­riors in Scot­land, is Canada’s all­time lead­ing try-scorer.

Jones has had lit­tle luck so far in the June in­ter­na­tion­als. Some 10 play­ers fell vic­tim to a stom­ach bug lead­ing up to the match against the sixth-ranked Scots, who brought a young but very ca­pa­ble tour­ing party to North Amer­ica. The dis­or­der forced a late change be­fore kick­off with Ben LeSage com­ing in for Doug Fraser at out­side cen­tre.

Gord McRorie, who can play scrum half and fly half, re­mains out with an an­kle in­jury suf­fered in train­ing for Scot­land.

The good news is the stom­ach bug seems to have run its course through the team.

Rum­ball, named Canada’s top young male player in 2014, will lead the se­nior side out for the first time. The 22-year-old from Toronto has cap­tained Canada at the World Rugby Tro­phy U20 tour­na­ment and also served as skip­per re­cently for the Canada Se­lects against the On­tario Ar­rows. Saturday will mark his 21st se­nior ap­pear­ance.

Sauder, a 22-year-old from Vancouver, won his first cap off the bench against Scot­land.

“I like him a lot,” Jones said. “He’s got a great skill set, prob­a­bly the best skill set I’ve seen of any young fel­low in Canada. He has the abil­ity to pass, to kick. He has a lot of pace and foot­work. And also he’s a con­fi­dent young man.”

Shane O’Leary, who started at No. 10 against Scot­land, drops to the bench.

Jones has been search­ing for a fly half. McCrorie, if healthy, would likely be his first choice but the job, which has been a prob­lem area for some years now, is there to be won.

Jones, who coached Rus­sia from 2011 to 2014 in a part-time role, has made eight changes to the 15 that started against Scot­land.

Cole Keith, Josh Lar­son and Dustin Do­bravsky come into the pack while Sauder, Fraser, An­drew Fer­gu­son, Cole Davis and Brock Staller are in­tro­duced in the back.

Jor­den San­dover-Best could win his first cap off the bench. Fel­low re­place­ment Keys (Stittsville, Ont.) and Eric Howard (Ottawa) are lo­cal boys.

Canada is 4-0-0 against Rus­sia, win­ning 46-12 in Cal­gary last time out in 2016.

The Cana­dian men, ranked 21st in the world, are us­ing the June in­ter­na­tion­als to gear up for a four-team repechage tour­na­ment in Novem­ber that rep­re­sents their last chance to qual­ify for the 2019 World Cup.

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