TORONTO — Rugby Canada has named New Zealand's Mark Anscombe as head coach of the Canadian men's national team.
The 59-year-old Anscombe succeeds fellow Kiwi Kieran Crowley, who resigned in January to take over Italian club side Benetton Treviso. Crowley, a former All Black, had been coach of Canada since 2008.
Canadian women's coach Francois Ratier had been in interim charge of the men's team, currently ranked 18th in the world.
Anscombe led New Zealand to the IRB Junior World Championships in 2011 after winning the same title as an assistant coach in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
He spent three years as head coach of the Auckland ITM Cup side in New Zealand before taking charge of Ulster ahead of the 2012-13 RaboDirect Pro 12 (now Guinness Pro 12). In his first year, Ulster led the standings at 17-4-1 before losing in the final. The team went 15-7-0 the next season, losing in the semifinals, before he left the club in June 2014 with a year remaining on his contract.
He led Ulster to back-to-back Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
"Mark brings a wealth of international and professional experience to our organization," Jim Dixon Rugby Canada's GM of rugby operations and performance, said in a statement. "As we enhance our domestic program over the next 12-18 months and prepare for RWC (Rugby World Cup) 2019 qualification, Mark's experience and leadership will be vital.
"Importantly, we feel Mark's coaching style, playing philosophy and understanding of the environments our internationally based players compete in is a great fit for this program."
Canada is scheduled to face Japan, Russia and Italy in June in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, respectively.
"Qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup is in my bigger picture and hugely important for Canadian rugby, but the key for any team, especially at this level, is developing depth and that's going to be a big focus of mine moving forward," Anscombe said.
Qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup will take place in 2017.
Anscombe inherits a squad that will be centralized full time beginning in August at the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence in Langford, B.C.
But he will have to deal with a roster scattered among several countries due to lack of a domestic pro league as well as the increasing focus on the sevens, which has diverted funding from the 15-man game.
Anscombe's son Gareth, a former Waikato Chief, plays for the Cardiff Blues and has six caps for Wales, qualifying via his Cardiff-born mother.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press