SPORTS

Canada Here To Get Things Right

Ardron said they are hoping to right the ship against the Flying Fijians – who lost their opening match to Japan 34-21 after being tipped as favourites.
30 Jul 2019 17:43
Canada Here To Get Things Right
Tyler Ardon plays for the Chiefs in Super Rugby. He captains Canada against Fiji on Saturday. Photo: TV NZ

The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians and Canada rugby teams are targeting to record their first Pacific Nations Cup win at the ANZ Stadium, Suva on Saturday.

The Canadians led by Tyler Ardron arrived at Nausori International Airport this morning as they intend to build up for the Rugby World Cup in September.

Losing their PNC opener 47-19 to USA on Sunday, Ardron said their motive is to get their bodies right for the World Cup.

“It’s probably one of the best things that can happen early in this competition,” he said.

“I’ve never questioned the effort of these guys – the technique and some of the execution can be a bit suspect at times.”

Ardron said they are hoping to right the ship against the Flying Fijians – who lost their opening match to Japan 34-21 after being tipped as favourites.

Canadian coach Kingsley Jones said from the USA clash he got his first look at how they are shaping up.

But Jones is defiant. He believes his side is ready to find its winning groove again.

“Obviously it’s a big game. We feel we’re at a similar level,” he said. “I’m hoping there’s no need for extra motivation.”

He picked 31 players to Fiji to face the Fijians as well as Tonga before returning home.

Wins are the goal, but just as important will be what Jones sees in some of the combinations he’s going to be experimenting with. He’s taken nine front rowers, for instance, to determine what the best mix will be for Japan.

“There’s two games in a short space of time, so we’ll see a few different faces,” he said.

The coach also had to leave a dozen players behind in Langford, Rugby Canada’s B.C. training centre.

When he started the head coach’s job in late 2017, his list of 31 might have been easy to fill out, he said. No longer.

“The gap has closed considerably,” he said.

Credit Major League Rugby, now two years in operation.

“Go back 18 months, think of the number of Canadian players who weren’t getting exposed to daily training environments,” he said.

“Now there’s probably 45 players in the MLR who weren’t in daily training back then — they were working daytime jobs.”

Both the Toronto Arrows, still Canada’s only entry into the U.S.-based league, and the Seattle Seawolves, who have kept a number of Canadians on their roster, are a big part of the story, he said.

“Also, we had 10 guys playing overseas, but only (Jeff) Hassler was getting picked regularly,” he pointed out.

“We had three guys at Newcastle who never got a game. Now, all our guys have been playing rugby. Tyler Ardron is doing well in Super Rugby, Evan Olmstead at Auckland.”

Jones has until September 2 to name his 31-man squad that will travel to Japan, and there will be changes, he insisted.

He’s only got 13 backs on the current tour, for instance.

The likes of Guiseppe Du Toit and Andrew Coe will likely earn further looks. And so will young scrum half Will Percillier, who was a standout star for Canada U-20 earlier this month, even as the junior squad stumbled to a fifth-place finish at the World Rugby U-20 tournament.

“There are still places to be won,” he added.

CANADA SQUAD

Tyler Ardron (captain), Kyle Baillie, Justin Blanchet, Nick Blevins, Rob Brouwer, Hubert Buydens, Luke Campbell, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Matt Heaton, Eric Howard, Jake Ilnicki, Cole Keith, Conor Keys, Ben LeSage, Phil Mack, Jamie Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie, Peter Nelson, Shane O’Leary, Evan Olmstead, Patrick Parfrey, Taylor Paris, Benoit Piffero, Andrew Quattrin, Lucas Rumball, Djustice Sears-Duru, Mike Sheppard, Matt Tierney, Conor Trainor, DTH van der Merwe.

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