Welcome to the RWC2019 Debriefs. The World Cup is now over and a new 4 year cycle begins, but the first stage of any cycle should be looking back at how things went – what went wrong and what went right – before looking on to how things go for the next cycle to ensure qualification to RWC2023 (if they haven’t automatically qualified) and to make sure they enter that tournament in peak form.
I will be going through these debriefs alphabetically, so today I will be casting my eye over Canada.
Canada failed to win a 2-legged playoff against the USA to become Americas 1 for the first time in World Cup history. They then went on to lose the Americas 2 spot by losing both legs of the Americas Repechage playoff to Uruguay, but eventually topped the table in the final repechage tournament to take the 20th spot in Japan.
2019 was not looking good for Canada heading into the tournament. A 56-0 win against Chile was their only victory in the Americas Rugby Championship, where they finished 5th. They came bottom of the Pacific Nations Cup with away losses to the USA, Fiji and Tonga, before losing once more to the USA in a final warm-up match.
- Pool Stages (5th in Pool B)
- Italy 48-7 Canada
- New Zealand 63-0 Canada
- South Africa 66-7 Canada
- Namibia C-C Canada
This was always going to be a difficult tournament for Canada with 2 of the favourites for the tournament found in this pool, but the huge loss to Italy showed just how far this team has fallen over the years.
Throughout the tournament, the defence just wasn’t good enough, with players dropping off tackles with regularity and allowing their opponents to build up big unassailable leads before Canada were even able to get into the game. Unfortunately Typhoon Hagibis caused a cancellation of their match against Namibia, which they would have been targeting before the tournament, but their prior performances suggest that they may have struggled to get a result here.
There were some silver linings to the clouds, though. Though they may have found themselves 40-0 within 30 minutes against South Africa, they rallied well to make the remaining 50 minutes a contest, despite substitute lock Josh Larsen being sent off shortly before halftime. Fly half Peter Nelson controlled things as well as possible under the circumstances and the players did manage to create chances – especially against Italy – but just failed to convert them.
The next few years are vital for Canada. This was all-but certainly the last World Cup for a number of key players, including star winger DTH van der Merwe, centre Ciaran Hearn and all 3 scrum halves that were in the squad and these roles must be filled. There are some big names still there in Tyler Ardron of the Chiefs, Taylor Paris of Castres, former Newcastle lock Evan Olmstead and Seattle Seawolves’ Jeff Hassler, as well as Nelson, who recently left Ulster.
What they need dearly though is the next generation of stars coming through. Luckily, the introduction of Major League Rugby could be just what they need. A large proportion of the squad are already playing for the Toronto Arrows or other MLR clubs, with a handful of players based in Europe and Ardron in New Zealand. With big name players making their way over to the league, the quality of rugby should just continue to improve and that can only be good news for the national team. Ideally, they also need to make sure that they are getting more talent into the top flight European leagues to make sure that they are used to playing the top quality players in order to compete as strongly as possible against Tier 1 opposition.