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Hubert Buydens to captain Canada 'A' at Pacific Rugby Challenge in Fiji

02/26/2015 08:00 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
Prop Hubert Buydens will captain Canada 'A' at the Pacific Rugby Challenge in Fiji next month as coach Kieran Crowley's team continues its buildup for the Rugby World Cup.

The Canadians, a largely domestic squad that features a mix of internationals and young talent, will open against Junior Japan on March 9 (Canadian time) in the Fijian capital of Suva before facing Samoa 'A' on March 13 and Argentina's Pampas XV on March 17. Also in the tournament are Fiji 'A' and Tonga 'A.

Those results will determine who Canada plays on the final day of competition March 22.

Crowley's team includes World Cup veterans Buydens, Conor Trainor, Sean White, Ciaran Hearn, Adam Kleeberger and Phil Mackenzie, who is returning from injury and has been released for the tournament by England's Sale Sharks.

Sevens stars John Moonlight and Sean Duke are among 13 others who have also played for the senior men’s 15 team.

Crowley will use the Fiji tournament to evaluate talent in advance of the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup this summer. Both events will serve as World Cup auditions.

"There's a few positions still open for the World Cup. For some of these players, it's a great opportunity," said Crowley, who will take a 31-man roster to the World Cup which opens Sept. 18 in England.

Kleeberger, who is also coming back from injury, is one of those players looking to climb back into World Cup contention.

The six-team World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup, which runs July 18 to Aug. 3, features Canada, Fiji and the U.S. in Pool B and Japan, Samoa and Tonga in Pool A. Crowley's team for this tournament will be reinforced by overseas pros.

The Canadian men, currently ranked 18th in the world, open against No. 11 Japan on July 18 in San Jose before hosting No. 13 Tonga on July 24 at Swangard Stadium in suburban Burnaby and No. 10 Samoa on July 29 at BMO Field in Toronto.

Swangard Stadium will host the tournament playoffs in an Aug. 3 tripleheader with teams seeded according to round-robin record.

Round-robin games will also take place in Suva, Fiji, and Sacramento, Calif.

Crowley and sevens coach Liam Middleton are having to manage the demands on players who are part of both the sevens and 15s teams. Some will sit out the final game of the Fiji tournament to rest up for the March 27-29 sevens stop in Hong Kong.

"There is a bit of juggling and a few injuries puts a little bit of pressure on personnel and sort of thing but it gives other opportunities," said Crowley.

Unavailable for the Fiji tournament due to injury or other commitments are Nanyak Dala, Kyle Gilmour, Nathan Hirayama, Phil Mack, James Smith and Doug Wooldridge.

Crowley is looking for his team to step up in 2015 after posting a 1-6-0 record last year. That should be helped by the fact that he will be able to spend time with his top players in advance of the World Cup.

"I'm hopeful that that's going to have a positive spinoff on our performances particularly the August, September, October area."

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Canada 'A' Roster

Kyle Baillie, Edmonton Druids, Charlottetown; Ray Barkwill, Castaway Wanderers, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Hubert Buydens (capt.), Castaway Wanderers, Saskatoon; Alistair Clarke, Baystreet RFC, Oakville, Ont.; Thyssen de Goede, James Bay AA, Victoria; Tom Dolezel, London St. George's, London, Ont.; Sean Duke, UVIC Vikes, Vancouver; Aaron Flagg, Castaway Wanderers, Abbotsford, B.C.; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers, Conception Bay South, N.L.; Pete Houlihan, Edmonton Druids, Edmonton; Harry Jones, Capilano RFC, Vancouver; Jake Ilnicki, Castaway Wanderers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Pat Kay, UVIC Vikes, Duncan, B.C.; Adam Kleeberger, Castaway Wanderers, White Rock, B.C.; Ryan Kotlewski, Calgary Saints, Calgary; Phil Mackenzie, Sale Sharks (England), Oakville, Ont.; Gordon McRorie, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; John Moonlight, James Bay AA, Pickering, Ont.; Callum Morrison, UBCOC Ravens, Victoria; Evan Olmstead, Parametta (Australia), Calgary; Patrick Parfrey, James Bay AA, St. Johns, N.L.; Seb Pearson, James Bay AA, London, Ont.; Benoit Piffero, Blagnac (France), Montreal; Conor Trainor, UBCOB Ravens, Vancouver; Liam Underwood, Ontario Blues, Toronto; Sean White, James Bay AA, Victoria; Jordan Wilson-Ross, James Bay AA, Alliston, Ont.

Head Coach: Kieran Crowley

Assistant Coach: Neil Barnes

Performance Analyst: Graeme Moffatt

Manager: Mark Winokur

Strength and Conditioning Coach: Andy Evans

Pacific Rugby Challenge Schedule (Canadian time):

March 9: Canada 'A' vs Junior Japan, 8 p.m. ET

March 13: Canada 'A' vs Samoa 'A,' 1 p.m.

March 17: Canada 'A' vs Pamas XV, 10 p.m.

March 23 – Playoffs

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