2 Players with links to the Western Cape have been included in Canada’s squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Former Glasgow Warriors winger DTH vd Merwe, who has now moved to Llanelli Scarlets in Wales, made the squad announced by coach Kieran Crowley. DTH vd Merwe was born in Worcester and represented Boland at Under 16 level before he emigrated to Canada with his parents. He has played for Canada on numerous occasions and will be 1 of their stalwarts with this being his 3rd World Cup.
Another player, who has spent time in the Western Cape and should be familiar to the Newlands faithful, Jebb Sinclair has also made the squad. Sinclair, who is a backrow player but can also play in the 2nd row, played for the Stormers and Western Province in 2012 and is another veteran of Canadian Rugby. He played in the 2011 World Cup as well.
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 7 straight test matches and is 1 from 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 USA, 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 19 September against the World No 2 side, Ireland, in Cardiff before taking on No 15 Italy, No 7 France and No 17 Romania in other Group D play.
The top 2 teams in each of the 4 groups advance to the quarter-finals.
The Canadian men’s recent form has been poor. The team lost all 4 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 Rugby World Cup field.
Canada went 1-2-1 at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, finishing 4th in their group, after beating Tonga and drawing Japan while losing to France and New Zealand.
While the Canadian men have qualified for every Rugby World Cup since the tournament’s inception in 1987, they have only advanced out of the 1st Round once, in 1991 when they lost to New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Canada went a combined 2-8-2 at the last 3 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 2nd-row pairing, have not played since joining Canada from their club teams in France and England, respectively.
Captain and 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 Rugby World Cup.
Questions at forward
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, DTH van der Merwe and Phil Mackenzie (whose brother Jamie is in the squad at scrumhalf).
Nick Blevins, a bulldozing centre, has been a bright light in recent matches.
Nathan Hirayama and Liam Underwood will likely both see action at flyhalf with Gord McRorie and Phil Mack doing the same at scrumhalf.
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 2nd Rugby 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.
Canada’s Rugby World Cup squad:
- 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.