Canada Set To Begin UK Tour Against Wales - Preview, Lineups & Streaming Info
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It has been far too long since Rugby Canada’s Men’s XV side has competed in a test match. Their last outing was on October 8, 2019 where they lost 66-7 to the Springboks. Their final game of that tournament was supposed to be against Namibia, but that match was cancelled due to a typhoon. So, a combination of typhoons and a global pandemic have prevented Canada from taking the pitch in 634 days.
I bet no one saw that coming when we were all laughing at Andrew Quattrin trying to squeeze into Schalk Brits’ jersey after the match.
Canada will now embark on a two-game tour to the UK where they will battle Wales and England for their first taste of test rugby since the Rugby World Cup. The matches will serve as an opportunity to get some of the younger players their first cap as well as begin sorting out the roster for the incredibly important RWC 2023 qualifiers in the fall.
Canada has the monumental task of going up against two tier-1 nations with an incredibly minimal amount of prep and a roster that is not exactly what you may consider their best. Up first is the reigning Six Nations Champions; Wales.
Head coach Wayne Pivac has named an incredibly strong side for this match. Of course, the Lions tour is in progress, so there are plenty of big names that are currently in South Africa. Unfortunately for Canada, the Lions are the hardest team to get selected to in all of rugby so the talent still available to Pivac is immense.
The legendary fullback Leigh Halfpenny will play in his 100th test match this weekend. This match will be his 96th test for Wales, but he reaches the century mark with 4 Lions caps on his impressive resume. Other former Lions on this squad include flanker Ross Moriarty and captain Jonathan Davis.
Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee and Dillon Lewis will combine for a veteran front row that should be quite the test in the set piece. Aaron Wainwright will also bring plenty of talent to the back row. He was left off the Lions tour, but he has already earned 29 Welsh caps at just 23 years of age.
Halfpenny and Davies are certainly the biggest names in the backs, but there is plenty of talent across the board. The halfback pairing will be Tomos Williams and Callum Sheedy. Uilisi Halaholo pairs with Davies in the centres while Halfpenny gets to work with teammates on the opposite end of the capped spectrum. Jonah Holmes has just 5 caps while Tom Rogers is one of five uncapped players in Pivac’s squad.
The big story with the Canada squad is not necessarily who is in the lineup, but who is out. Tyler Ardron, Kyle Baillie, Matt Beukeboom, Luke Campbell, Nick Carson, Tyler Duguid, Matt Heaton, Spencer Jones, Evan Olmstead, Lindsey Stevens, and Matt Tierney round out the unfortunately long list of unavailable players. It isn’t even just the quantity that hurts, but the quality. Ardron, Heaton, Olmstead and Tierney are some of Canada’s best players and Duguid is a rising star.
However, you can’t dwell on the players that are not there. Kingsley Jones needs to work with who is available to him and this is the selected squad.
The squad is young and there are seven players in line to make their international test debuts. Four will start. Siaki Vikilani gets the start at eightman. He garnered plenty of attention at the High-Performance Camp back in November, but injuries have largely limited his participation in the Toronto Arrows’ season. Quinn Ngawati has been tearing it up with Rugby United New York. Great with ball in hand, but his defense has really stood out.
Ross Braude earns the start at scrumhalf which is a bit surprising given that Will Percillier is on the bench. Cooper Coates is the latest addition to the squad as he replaces the injured Spencer Jones. Coates was previously with the Sevens program and will match up with Halfpenny in his first match. Tyler Rowland, Donald Carson, and Michael Smith will all look to make a big impact off the bench.
There shouldn’t be much debating the pack as jerseys 1 through 5 are basically guaranteed based on who is missing. The back row is also tough to argue with based on availability and will feature Vikilani, Reegan O’Gorman, and Lucas Rumball. Rumball has had a monster year in the MLR and his work in the breakdown has become the stuff of legends. However, O’Gorman and Vikilani are not quite as experienced and they will be going up against Moriarty, Botham, and Wainwright.
As mentioned, I’m a little surprised to see Percillier on the bench given his success in France this year. Braude certainly deserves a look though. The flyhalf position was a huge question mark going into this tour. Jones has gone with Peter Nelson with Robbie Povey on the bench. Perhaps Will Kelly will get a look next game.
The centre combination is simply awesome as we get to see Ngawati alongside Ben LeSage. They will be opposite Davies and Halaholo, so it’s a big task, but I’m excited to see them rise to the challenge. The outside backs feature Kainoa Lloyd, Cole Davis, and Coats.
The bench features a 6-2 split of forwards and backs. It’s a mix of experience and youth with Eric Howard, Cole Keith, Tyler Rowland, Donald Carson, Michael Smith, and Lucas Albornoz included in the group. The only two backs will be Percillier and Povey.
Ultimately, what we are looking at is some challenging circumstances for Rugby Canada. Canada is already down some of their top players. The current group has only been together for a few days and there are plenty of uncapped players or players with little experience in test rugby on the squad. They are also going up against a pretty strong Welsh squad.
Realistically, the question is not whether Wales will win, but by how much? If Canada does pull off the victory, it will be one of the biggest upsets in rugby history. There are certainly positives that can come out of this match though. How does Canada approach the game tactically? What kind of team is Kingsley Jones and his staff looking to build? The big RWC 2023 qualifiers are fast approaching and surely individuals will be looking to put their hand up for selection in the fall.
Of course, there are plenty of players still new to test rugby. It will be great for them to see what kind of intensity a test match is actually played at. Hopefully, they will be able to take what they learn from their experience here in the UK and apply it the qualifiers.
You can catch Canada battle Wales at 10am on Saturday July 3rd, 2021 on DAZN.