SPORTS

Canadian rugby team looks to step it up on November tour of Europe

10/24/2014 01:42 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - After an uneven performance at the Americas Rugby Championship, a reinforced Canadian squad looks to take it up a notch on its November tour of Europe.

The Canadian men open Nov. 2 in Leicester, England, against an RFU Championship XV, an all-star squad from England's second tier. Then there are Test matches against Namibia in Colwyn Bay, Wales, on Nov. 7, Samoa in Vannes, France on Nov. 14, and Romania in Bucharest on Nov. 22.

Coach Kieran Crowley has named 33 players for the tour but will have to manage his roster given that the opening contest falls outside the IRB Test window so top clubs do not have to release their players. Crowley will field a non-Test Canada XV squad for that game.

Crowley is looking for a step up from the ARC, where a Canada 'A' side finished third with a 1-2-0 record after losses to the U.S. Selects and Argentina Jaguars and a win over a depleted Uruguay side.

"I was pretty disappointed in our overall performances," Crowley said bluntly from London where he was attending International Rugby Board meetings ahead of the tour. "The results weren't great. Some of the rugby we played wasn't the best. But it was a good competition. It was a step up for some of our guys and I think their skill level got exposed because of the speed of the game. Argentina and the U.S. had very strong teams there."

"From a long-term perspective, it certainty showed that there were a couple of players there that have put themselves in contention for World Cup selection now. And there will be a couple probably that were disappointed in their performances."

Crowley has been able to summon the likes of captain Tyler Ardron, Jamie Cudmore, DTH van der Merwe, Aaron Carpenter and Hubert Buydens for the November Tests.

Buydens is coming off winning the ITM Cup Championship in New Zealand with the Manawatu Turbos in a 32-24 decision over a Hawke's Bay side that featured fellow Canadian prop Jason Marshall. Jake Ilnicki, another prop, has been playing for the NSW County Eagles in Australia.

"These guys have had outstanding experiences, just showing the fact that when they do get the opportunity that they are up to that level," said Crowley, a former New Zealand All Black.

That's good news for Crowley and scrum coach Mike Shelley with the World Cup roster expanded to 31 with the addition of another prop.

The European tour represents a demanding schedule for the 17th-ranked Canadians. No. 9 Samoa, No. 16 Romania and No. 22 Namibia have all qualified for next year's World Cup, with Namibia joining Canada in Pool D alongside No. 5 Ireland, No. 7 France, and No. 14 Italy.

"It's going to be a challenge, particularly with the travel," said Crowley.

The RFU Championship XV game could also be a banana skin with a roster reinforced by players on loan from Premiership teams.

Crowley will be watching closely, with an eye to World Cup selection.

"There's still a number of holes actually. We've got a few players here that I want to have a look at. Probably for some of those guys it's their last opportunity to really put their foot forward. At the end of November I will hopefully have a real sense of where we're going for next July and that Pacific competition."

After the November tour, the Canadians will go to Fiji in March for the Pacific Nations Cup. Canada will also play the U.S. in July.

The Canadian tour side will be without the injured Matt Evans, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, Phil Mackenzie, Mike Scholz and Liam Underwood, with Crowley saying some of the omissions are more of a precautionary nature.

Former captain Aaron Carpenter will miss the first two games on tour because his wife is expecting.

The tour will allow the Canadians to stay at one of their World Cup bases in Leicester.

———

Canadian Tour Squad

Tyler Ardron (capt.), Ospreys (Wales), Lakefield, Ont.; Ray Barkwill, Niagara Wasps RFC, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Connor Braid, James Bay AA, Victoria; Brett Buekeboom, Plymouth Albion (England), Lindsay, Ont.; Hubert Buydens, Manawatu Turbos (New Zealand), Saskatoon; Aaron Carpenter, Cornish Pirates RFC, Brantford, Ont.; Jamie Cudmore, ASM Clermont Auvergne (France), Squamish, B.C.; Nanyak Dala, Castaway Wanderers, Regina; Sean Duke, UVIC Vikes, Vancouver; Kyle Gilmour, St. Albert RFC, St. Albert, Alta.; Ryan Hamilton, Capilano RFC, Vancouver; Jeff Hassler, Ospreys (Wales), Okotoks, Alta.; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers, Conception Bay South, N.L.; Tyler Hotson, London Scottish RFC (England), Vancouver; Jake Ilnicki, NSW County Eagles (Australia), Williams Lake, B.C.; Jamie Mackenzie, UVIC Vikes, Oakville, Ont.; Jason Marshall, Hawkes Bay Magpies (New Zealand), Vancouver; Gordon McRorie, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; John Moonlight, James Bay AA, Pickering, Ont.; Patrick Parfrey, Swilers RFC, St. Johns, N.L.; Taylor Paris, SU Agen Lot-et-Garonne (France), Barrie, Ont.; Seb Pearson, London St. George's, London, Ont.; Jon Phelan, Castaway Wanderers, Montreal; James Pritchard, Bedford Blues (England), Parkes, Australia; Jebb Sinclair, London Irish, Fredericton; Richard Thorpe, London Welsh (England), Beckenham, England; Andrew Tiedemann, Plymouth Albion (England), St. Albert, Alta.; Conor Trainor, UBCOB Ravens, Vancouver; DTH van der Merwe, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland), Regina; Sean White, James Bay AA, Victoria; Jordan Wilson-Ross, James Bay AA, Alliston, Ont.; Doug Wooldridge, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.

Head Coach: Kieran Crowley

Manager: Gareth Rees

Assistant Coach: Neil Barnes

Attack Coach: Scott Hanson

Scrum Coach: Mike Shelley

Strength and Conditioning Coach: Andy Evans

Performance Analyst: Calum Ramsay

———

Schedule

Nov. 2 at Sixways Stadium, Worcester, England

Canada XV vs. RFU Championship XV

Nov. 7 at Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay, Wales

Canada vs. Namibia

Nov. 14 at Stade de la Rabine, Vannes, France

Canada vs. Samoa

Nov. 22 at Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest

Canada vs. Romania

———

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

MORE:cpSports