The RWC2019 Debrief: Canada

The RWC2019 Debrief: Canada

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.

RWC2019 Qualification

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 Form

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.

The Debrief

  • 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.

Looking Ahead

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.

RWC2019: Players to Watch – Pool B

RWC2019: Players to Watch – Pool B

We are just days away from the start of the Rugby World Cup and we now know the players who will be on show. With the 31-man squads finalised, it’s time to start taking a look at the squads and looking at who will stand out during this tournament. In 2015, Nehe Milner-Skudder made his all Blacks debut in August, before going on to be a star of the tournament and make the tournament dream team, along with Japanese fullback Ayumu Goromaru, who definitely wasn’t known to the masses before the tournament.

With so many people who aren’t die-hard rugby fans set to watch the tournament, or many whose knowledge is maybe limited to their own nation’s players, I decided to do something similar to my Players to Watch in the Six Nations article, and expand that to each team of the World Cup. While I try to watch as much rugby as I can around the world, you’ll see that even I have blank spots as I select some players that may be bigger names in their teams, but they still may be lesser-known names to the wider public.

Journey to RWC2019 series:

Who are you looking out for during the tournament? Today, we’ll look at Pool B:

New Zealand

Ngani Laumape was going to be my pick here until his shock omission, so I have instead chosen to look at Sevu Reece. I made mention of Nehe Milner-Skudder earlier in the article and he is basically the Milner-Skudder of the 2019 All Blacks squad, having only made his debut in recent months. With pace, power and footwork, Reece looks the real deal and comes into the tournament having been the top try scorer in the last Super Rugby season.

South Africa

The first 2 rounds of Super Rugby made it clear that I had to pick to Herschel Jantjies. The Stormers scrum half did me some help in my fantasy team this year but even I wouldn’t have imagined his international career would begin with 3 tries in 2 Rugby Championship games and a draw against New Zealand in Wellington. Capable of controlling the game well enough to lead the team, he is such a danger with ball in hand if given too much space. Between him, Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach, head coach Rassie Erasmus is spoiled for choice at 9.


While I have to mention Gloucester’s Jake Polledri who I rate highly, I am going to the backs again here with my selection of Matteo Minozzi. The fullback missed this year’s Six Nations through injury, but proved himself to be a potent attacking talent in the 2018 tournament with 4 tries in 5 games. Part of the rebuild going on at Wasps this summer after moving from Zebre, Minozzi will be looking to make up for lost time. Expect him to run riot against Namibia and Canada.


This was the hardest of the 20 teams competing to pick by a country mile. Reynaldo Bothma was going to be my pick here until he recently announced his retirement – I really hope there was no pressure from Harlequins affecting that decision – so in his absence I have picked Aranos Coetzee. The prop gets a selection here by virtue of his experience of playing at a relatively high level, having played for Racing, Brive and the Cheetahs all in top tier leagues while also featuring for South Africa’s U18s team back in the day. An experienced prop will be invaluable during the tournament.


Canada are a team that have really struggled for success in recent years, but if they are to have any success in the tournament, D. T. H. van der Merwe will surely be involved. The winger bizarrely struggled to get any time at Newcastle Falcons but has excelled at the Scarlets and in 2 spells with Glasgow. Internationally, he has scored 38 tries in 57 caps and has started every game at the last 3 World Cups, scoring 6 tries – including 4 in the 2015 tournament.

I’m running a fantasy rugby league for the World Cup on the Rugby Magazine website, and you are all invited to join! Simply follow this link and use the Unique Token: b6c1e40d48e6

Will you be picking any of these players in your squad?