MLR experience to boost Canada Rugby World Cup performance

MLR experience sure to boost Canada Rugby World Cup performance
LANGFORD, BC - MARCH 1: Team Canada gathers on the field during a Americas Rugby Championship match against Argentina XV at Westhills Stadium on March 1, 2019 in Langford, British Columbia, Canada. Argentina XV defeated Canada 39-23 and with the bonus point also won the 2019 Americas Rugby Championship title. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)

Canada has a rich history in the Rugby World Cup and in World Rugby overall. However, they have been on a downward slide over the past decade or so and Japan 2019 stands at a crossroads for Kingsley Jones’ side.

Continuing the series looking at the tier two nations, David Challis turns his attention to Canada. Canada has one of the toughest draws in the competition but we will see whether they can rise to the occasion in September.

Canada Rugby World Cup history

Canada has performed well in the Rugby World Cup over the years. They have qualified for all the tournaments which few tier two nations can claim to have done. However, they have begun to slip back over the past two or three tournaments.

2015 was the first time that Canada was unable to win a game at the Rugby World Cup. However, this was not necessarily as bad as it appeared. They lost by just 2 points to Romania thanks to a last-minute penalty. They also ran Italy close and could have won the game were it not for a controversial disallowed try.

Greatest World Cup moment

Undoubtedly their greatest World Cup moment came in their qualification for the quarter-finals in 1991. They beat out Fiji and Romania in the group stages to earn a knock-out match with the All Blacks.

In the quarter-final, they put up an amazing fight and only lost 29-13. Tries from second-most capped player Al Charron and scrum-half Chris Tynan made sure New Zealand were made to fight for their win.

Three key players to watch at Japan 2019 RWC

Tyler Ardron

Embed from Getty ImagesArdron is one of the only Canadian players to earn a contract in Super Rugby. Previous to this he has played for the Ospreys alongside Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

He is an all-action forward with pace, power as well as deft hands. He will lead from the front and try to drive his Canadian team forward.

Evan Olmstead

Olmstead will likely be alongside Ardron in the row and what he lacks in flair compared to his partner he more than makes up for with raw power and aggression.

Olmstead has also spent time in the Guinness Pro14 so will aim to use that experience to drive his side on.

DTH van der Merwe

Embed from Getty ImagesVan der Merwe is probably the most well-known name for Canada and for good reason. The flying winger is simply electric in attack as fans of Glasgow and Scarlett’s will attest to. He is a Pro 14 legend and fans will hope he lights up the World Cup in the same way he has the European leagues.

Pool B – what are Canada’s chances?

Canada is drawn in a seriously rough pool, with heavyweights South Africa and New Zealand. Here Canada must simply focus on damage limitation, to get through rather than seriously looking at getting a result.

Namibia is the key game for Canada. A win here is vital if they are to view the World Cup as a success. The interesting game will be against Italy though.

Canadian Rugby
Chauncey O’Toole of Canada claims a high ball under pressure from Victor Vito of the All Blacks during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool A match between New Zealand and Canada at Wellington Regional Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

In 2015 the two sides played out a thriller and Canada will hope that they can rise to the occasion again. However, realistically the best Canada can hope for is a fourth-place finish in their group.

Going forward: Canada Rugby ‘beyond the World Cup’

Canadian rugby is still relatively underfunded compared to other sports in the country. This means they have had to cut corners which have resulted in a number of players playing both 15s and 7s on a regular basis.

The other major issue that Canada faces is converting its talented youngsters into senior players. They have a serious issue with youth drop out and its something they really need to address going forward.

However, the advent of Major League Rugby (MLR) has begun to alleviate some of these issues. It has given more options to aspiring professionals. The Canadian rugby union needs to continue to push the MLR because as it grows so will the capabilities of Canadian Rugby.

Overall, Canadian Rugby is admittedly, at a ‘holding point’ but, there are reasons to be hopeful. They have plenty of talented players, their national Sevens Rugby team holds a place in the HSBC Sevens Series. There is an improving pathway that includes the Toronto Arrows included in top-class rugby union games at home and in the US market.

Rugby League is also developing, so the oval ball fan base might, in fact, embrace both codes and they will cross-pollinate, with an explosion of television coverage and nationalistic pride for the Canada Rugby World Cup side….as you do!

If they can begin to get the best out the resources they have, then Canadian rugby could be a force once again.

 

“Main Photo Credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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