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Canada names 31-man Rugby World Cup squad, hopes to stop recent poor run of form

TORONTO — Canada named its 31-man Rugby World Cup roster Tuesday, hoping the return of veteran forwards Jamie Cudmore and Jebb Sinclair will help revive a team that has lost seven straight test matches and is 1-10 since the start of 2014.

Coach Kieran Crowley had previously announced an expanded 35-man squad while waiting on the health status of Cudmore (concussion), Sinclair (knee), Taylor Paris (groin) and Jason Marshall (knee).

All but Paris made it. The 22-year-old back, who helped Agen win promotion to France's top tier next season, returned to action last Saturday and played well in Canada's 41-23 loss to the U.S. only to injure his knee.

A broken arm has also kept prop Tom Dolezel off the roster. Locks Tyler Hotson and Jon Phelan are healthy but also miss out.

James Pritchard, Canada's all-time leading scorer, was left off the preliminary list. At 36, he was deemed surplus to requirements with other kicking options and more versatile players available at fullback.

Canada, ranked 18th in the world, opens play at the World Cup on Sept. 19 against No. 2 Ireland in Cardiff before taking on No. 15 Italy, No. 7 France and No. 17 Romania in other Group D play.

The top two teams in each of the four groups advance to the quarter-finals.

The Canadian men's recent form has been poor. The team lost all four matches at the recent Pacific Nations Cup and has not won since a 17-13 decision over Namibia last November.

Only Uruguay (No. 19) and Namibia (No. 20) are ranked lower than Canada in the 20-country World Cup field.

Canada went 1-2-1 at the 2011 World Cup, finishing fourth in its group after beating Tonga and drawing Japan while losing to France and New Zealand.

While the Canadian men have qualified for every World Cup since the tournament's inception in 1987, they have only advanced out of the first round once — in 1991 when they lost to New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

Canada went a combined 2-8-2 at the last three tournaments.

The Canadian roster was announced at a fundraising dinner in Toronto. The Canadians head to Halifax to play the Glasgow Warriors on Saturday before leaving for warmup matches in England against No.13 Georgia and No. 9 Fiji.

Cudmore and Sinclair, a likely second-row pairing, have not played since joining Canada from their club teams in France and England, respectively.

Captain/No. 8 Tyler Ardron (knee) and winger DTH van der Merwe (thumb) were hurt during the Pacific Nations Cup but are expected to recover in time for the World Cup.

Crowley's squad features depth in the backs but there are question marks in the forward pack, which has struggled in set pieces recently.

Paris' pace will be missed although Canada still has dangerous strike runners on the wing in Jeff Hassler, van der Merwe and Phil Mackenzie (whose brother Jamie is in the squad at scrum half).

Nick Blevins, a bulldozing centre, has been a bright light in recent matches.

Nathan Hirayama and Liam Underwood will likely both see action at fly half with Gord McRorie and Phil Mack doing the same at scrum half.

Once fit, Ardron will anchor a back row that will likely also feature sevens captain John Moonlight and English-based Richard Thorpe.

Hooker remains a question-mark. Former captain Aaron Carpenter, a converted back-rower, covers the field well and is a fine runner but does not throw as well at lineout as all-rounder Ray Barkwill, a bulldog of a forward.

It's the second World Cup as Canadian coach for Crowley, a former All Blacks player who took over the team in March 2008. His contract expires next January.

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Canada's Rugby World Cup Roster:

Tyler Ardron (capt.), Ospreys (Wales), Lakefield, Ont.; Ray Barkwill, Castaway Wanderers, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Brett Beukeboom, Cornish Pirates (England), Lindsay, Ont.; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Connor Braid, unattached, Victoria; Hubert Buydens, Castaway Wanderers, Saskatoon; Aaron Carpenter, Cornish Pirates (England), Brantford, Ont.; Jamie Cudmore, Clermont Auvergne (France), Squamish, B.C.; Nanyak Dala, Castaway Wanderers, Saskatoon; Matt Evans, Cornish Pirates (England), Maple Bay, B.C.; Kyle Gilmour, Rotherham Titans (England), St. Albert, Alta.; Jeff Hassler, Ospreys (Wales), Okotoks, Alta.; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers, Conception Bay, N.L.; Nathan Hirayama, UVIC Vikes, Vancouver; Harry Jones, Capilano RFC, North Vancouver; Phil Mack, James Bay AA, Victoria; Jamie Mackenzie, UBCOB Ravens, Oakville, Ont.; Phil Mackenzie, Sale Sharks (England), Oakville, Ont.; Jason Marshall, Agen (France), North Vancouver; Gordon McRorie, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; John Moonlight, James Bay AA, Pickering, Ont.; Evan Olmstead, Parramatta Two Blues (Australia), Vancouver; Benoit Piffero, unattached, Montreal; Djustice Sears-Duru, Oakville Crusaders, Oakville, Ont.; Jebb Sinclair, London Irish (England), Fredericton; Richard Thorpe, London Welsh (England), Beckenham, England; Andrew Tiedemann, unattached, St. Albert, Alta.; Conor Trainor, UBCOB Ravens, Vancouver; Liam Underwood, Balmy Beach RFC, Toronto; DTH van der Merwe, Scarlets (Wales), Victoria; Doug Wooldridge, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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