ARC Preview – Canada

canada-hubert-buydens-glasgow-halifax-2015

Story Source: http://www.americasrugbynews.com/

It’s almost here, the groundbreaking new test rugby tournament begins this Saturday. The bringing together of Rugby World Cup regulars Argentina, Canada, and the USA along with the rapidly developing Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile gives the Americas a legitimate and highly promising platform for rugby to grow throughout the region.

2015 FORM

There’s no sense trying to sugarcoat it, last year was dreadful for the team. With only one win in 11 tests – plus one against Glasgow Warriors in a friendly – and a complete shut-out at the World Cup, there wasn’t much to cheer about for Canadian fans. One can argue that Canada were in positions to win during several matches, but as the saying goes ‘the numbers don’t lie’.

Despite the poor record their world ranking slipped only one place, from 18th to 19th, though they are perilously close to dropping another spot with Uruguay hot on their heels and conveniently their first opponents in the new competition. A loss would drop them to 20th, their lowest ebb since the introduction of the official rankings in 2003.

The good news is things can only improve. In theory at least. A host of new players – 18 in all – will get an opportunity to prove themselves in the coming weeks. Regardless of results, it will improve the depth chart and with an entire team full of professionals to bolster the squad in later months, Canadians should start to see improved performances in the relatively near future.

POST-RWC 2015

After departing empty-handed from Leicester City Stadium, the Canadian squad went their separate ways. A number stayed behind with professional commitments, while another good chunk headed back to home base to prepare for the HSBC Sevens Series and potential Olympic qualification.

Neither of those groups of players will be seen at the Americas Rugby Championship. All but two European professionals have been left at their clubs so as not to damage their contractual prospects. The sevens players are also not available for the ARC, part of a new Rugby Canada policy of separating the two programs, though that situation will change following the Olympics.

While the absence of so many top players is problematic, arguably of more concern to Canadian fans is the state of disarray in the Rugby Canada administration. A number of high profile positions – General Manager, CEO, High Performance Director, and Head Coach – have been vacated over the past year and only new GM Jim Dixon has filled the gap on a permanent basis. François Ratier steps in as interim Head Coach and Jamie Cudmore will wear a coaching hat for the first time, but there is a sense that Canada must get their own back yard sorted first before they find success beyond their borders.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Among so many new players one could virtually point to any position on the field, but among the crowd are a few youngsters with long-term potential that should receive the most scrutiny.

Hooker has been a problem position for seemingly the last two decades, with rarely more than one or two strong options at a time. With France-based Benoît Pifféro unavailable, the search for a successor to incumbent Ray Barkwill begins with two 22-year-olds, Alex Mascott and Eric Howard. The former has come through the national u20 program while the latter has emerged more recently with the Ontario Blues. Both are mobile and solid prospects.

Elsewhere in the pack two graduates from last year’s impressive u20 side will look to take the step up to senior international level. Second row Paul Ciulini and flanker Lucas Rumball should get some meaningful playing time. Both are well suited to close quarters combat and look to dominate the contact area, something Canadian forwards have struggled with somewhat in recent months.

Ontario Blues scrumhalf Andrew Ferguson will make his much-anticipated debut and has the potential to put real pressure on Gordon McRorie for the starting role. Out wide there is a chance for bolter Brett Johnson, from the unfashionable Truro Saints club in Nova Scotia’s second division. A fullback or wing, he lacks size but makes up for it with exceptional speed and a nose for the tryline.

VERDICT

Coach Ratier and acting captain Hubert Buydens have their work cut out for them, there’s no question of that. Athletically they are capable of matching against any side. Getting acquainted with each other in record time – and in record numbers – will be the challenge. Wins against Chile and Brazil can be expected. Anything more will be a good return under difficult circumstances.

FIXTURES

Feb 6 vs Uruguay Langford 16:00 PST, 19:00 EST
Feb 13 vs USA Round Rock 18:00 CST, 16:00 PST, 19:00 EST
Feb 20 vs Brazil Langford 16:00 PST, 19:00 EST
Feb 26 vs Argentina Rosario 18:10 local, 13:10 PST, 16:10 EST
Mar 5 vs Chile Santiago 19:10 local, 14:10 PST, 17:10 EST

SQUAD

NAME POS HGT WGT DOB CAPS CLUB
Brouwer, Rob PR 1.91
6-3
121
265
Dec 10
1982
0 Lindsay
Buydens, Hubert PR 1.91
6-3
125
275
Jan 4
1982
39 Castaway Wanderers
Ilnicki, Jake PR 1.85
6-1
119
260
Feb 24
1992
9 Castaway Wanderers
Kotlewski, Ryan PR 1.80
5-11
118
260
Feb 21
1990
0 Calgary Saints
Sears-Duru, Djustice PR 1.85
6-1
123
270
May 24
1994
12 Oakville Crusaders
Barkwill, Ray HO 1.75
5-9
103
225
Aug 26
1980
26 Castaway Wanderers
Howard, Eric HO 1.76
5-9
100
220
Sep 5
1993
0 Brantford Harlequins
Mascott, Alex HO 1.81
5-11
98
215
Oct 23
1993
0 UBC Thunderbirds
Baillie, Kyle LO/FL 1.96
6-5
111
245
Apr 7
1991
0 Halifax Tars
Chisholm, Liam LO 2.01
6-7
115
255
Jan 7
1991
0 UVic Vikes
Ciulini, Paul LO 1.95
6-5
113
250
Oct 28
1995
0 Aurora Barbarians
Morrison, Callum LO 1.98
6-6
110
240
Nov 28
1985
3 UBCOB Ravens
Clark, Alistair FL 1.83
6-0
97
215
Jul 4
1987
0 Bay Street
Gilmour, Kyle FL/N8 1.87
6-2
105
230
Jan 26
1988
14 Rotherham Titans (UK)
Hamson, Mike FL/N8 1.84
6-0
98
215
Mar 6
1988
0 Halifax Tars
Rumball, Lucas FL 1.90
6-3
106
235
Aug 2
1995
0 Balmy Beach
Panga, Clay N8/FL 1.86
6-1
97
215
Jul 6
1985
0 Westshore Velox
Ferguson, Andrew SH 1.74
5-9
86
190
May 1
1992
0 Oakville Crusaders
McRorie, Gordon SH 1.76
5-9
80
175
May 12
1988
15 Calgary Hornets
Robinson, Jake SH 1.75
5-9
83
180
Jun 3
1988
0 St. Albert
Bowd, Gradyn FH 1.78
5-10
93
205
Aug 27
1992
0 UVic Vikes
Parfrey, Patrick FH/CE 1.88
6-2
92
200
Nov 1
1991
7 Swilers
Blevins, Nick CE 1.88
6-2
103
225
Sep 11
1988
28 Calgary Hornets
Samson, Mozac CE 1.85
6-1
102
225
Sep 1
1985
0 Calgary Saints
Mackenzie, Phil WI/CE 1.85
6-1
99
220
Feb 25
1987
29 Sale Sharks (UK)
Maguire, Duncan WI/FB 1.80
5-11
87
190
Aug 4
1989
0 St. Albert
Moor, Dan WI 1.83
6-0
100
220
Jul 24
1990
0 Balmy Beach
Johnson, Brett FB/WI 1.75
5-9
75
165
Aug 6
1994
0 Truro Saints

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