By: Doug Crosse
So, it’s getting down to the skinny end of the wedge for Canada.
The repechage is looming, coach Kingsley Jones has taken a domestic side on a quick French tour, and the South American-based Americas tournament is what he has left to fill out his roster around a dozen or so pros that would be available.
We know now that Canada will be playing Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong.
On paper, in previous years, a long-time fan wouldn’t sweat this tournament. But in 2017 and 2018 we have not yet seen a complete side assembled.
Some would argue the summer series was pretty close. But it was a disappointing trio of games against Scotland, Russia and the USA.
Is it the players? Is it the coach? Is it both?
It doesn’t really matter at this point because nothing can be done about either.
So what are we looking at from a positional perspective as the final group to go to Marseilles for the three game set in November?
Certain: Jake Ilinicki, Djustice Sears-Duru, Hubert Buydens, Matt Tierney, Cole Keith.
Possibles: Rob Brouwer, Tom Dolezel, Doug Woolridge, Alex Forrest.
Certain: Ray Barkwill, Eric Howard.
Possibles: Benoit Piffero, Steven Ng.
Certain: Evan Olmstead*, Brett Beukeboom, Paul Ciulini, Kyle Baillie.
Possibles: Liam Carter, Brad Lester, Mike Sheppard.
Certain: Lucas Rumball*, Tyler Ardron*, Admir Cejvanovich*, Matt Heaton, Luke Campbell, Evan Olmstead*.
Possibles: Adam Zaruba, Marcello Wainwright, Ollie Nott, Grant Crowell.
Certain: Gord McRorie, Phil Mack, Andrew Ferguson*.
Possibles: Graham Barrie
Certain: Patrick Parfrey*, Theo Sauder*, Shane O’Leary.
Possibles: Sawn Windsor, Cooper Coates*.
Certain: Guiseppe du Toit, Nick Blevins, Andrew Coe*, Ben Lesage, Doug Fraser.
Possibles: Mozac Samson, Luca Hammond, Jordan Wilson-Ross, Dan Moor.
Certain: DTH van der Merwe, Taylor Paris, Kainoa Lloyd, Cole Davis.
Possibles: Sean Ferguson, Jeff Hassler (I know he has said no – but I think after a summer break, and if he is asked nicely, he could come back as a force.
Certain: Brock Staller, Andrew Ferguson*, Pat Parfrey*, Theo Sauder*, Andrew Coe*.
Possibles: Cooper Coates*.
*Can be considered for more than one position
The biggest worry for this group is not even about winning prior to the tournament, but scoring. Canada needs a GPS to find the tryline right now, so some games in the Americas tournament that focus on back interplay through specialist coach Henry Paul would be helpful. Anything that can give the 10 through 15 set a sense of confidence and getting teams playing on their back foot will get Canada through.
While most pundits are showing a degree of certainty heading into the repechage, the team I worry about is Kenya. They are not particularly skilled, but you don’t have to coach big. They are going to be a load at each position, especially in the backs. That doesn’t mean a loss for Canada, but there will be lots of physical work to be done.
Hong Kong, which, in case anyone is keeping track, is actually a city and not a country, are not particularly big, but unlike Canada, have had to win to attend this party. They won the Asian championships and took a play-off series from New Zealand protectorate, the Cook Islands. They can score through their backs, but if Canada can keep the set piece under control and take that platform away, it will be a win, but not a blowout.
Germany… Hmm. Actually, it has a lot of imported talent from interesting countries, but not enough time together to pose a knock-out punch. Remember, but for bad paperwork and World Rugby decisions, Germany would not even be in this discussion. But Canada cannot take them too lightly or they could be in for a bit of a fist-fight through the hour mark.
These are all very long term views without knowing much about who all will be playing on these days. The most important thing for Canada is to find an identity. At one time that was about being the badasses in the rucks and mauls, and making a team feel like they had played two games and not just one. This Canada team doesn’t have that. Jones might do well to bring some cultural attache players on the South American tour. Aaron Carpenter would make a good forwards assistant coach, but also be a touchstone to Canada’s recent past. Another good coach for this would be Morgan Williams. That guy knew who to win and knew how to prepare.
ROUND 1 – Sunday, November 11
ROUND 2 – Saturday, November 17
ROUND 3 – Friday, November 23
HISTORICAL RESULTS (Courtesy Americas Rugby News)
1996-06-01 – Canada 18-12 Hong Kong – Hong Kong
1996-07-06 – Canada 57-9 Hong Kong – Vancouver
1997-05-24 – Canada 35-27 Hong Kong – Hong Kong
1997-06-07 – Canada 17-16 Hong Kong – Vancouver
1998-05-09 – Canada 17-23 Hong Kong – Hong Kong
1998-06-13 – Canada 38-12 Hong Kong – Shawnigan Lake
2009-12-12 – Hong Kong 14-24 Germany – Heidelberg
2017-05-27 – Kenya 29-30 Germany – Nairobi
2017-11-18 – Hong Kong 40-30 Kenya – Hong Kong