Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Phil MacKenzie´s Impressive 2011 for Canada

MacKenzie scores vs Tonga
Few punters were giving Canada much of a chance of success at Rugby World Cup 2011. Rugby websites and social media alike were quick to point out that coach Kieran Crowley had selected a squad dominated by amateur players. Only secondrower Jamie Cudmore (Clermont, France) and centre DTH van der Merwe (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) were entering the World Cup after having played the previous season at the top level. Canada were therefore considered as being lightweights and given little chance of repeating its 1991 World Cup accomplishment of reaching the Quarter Finals. While Canada did, indeed, only have two professional players at the World Cup the country did have a sizeable contingent of players from second division teams. What Canada didn´t have at the top level it did have in the second division as it had an impressive list of players performing well, especially in England´s second division championship - the RFU Championship which featured the likes of Aaron Carpenter, Tyler Hotson, James Pritchard and Phil MacKenzie.

The 2011 warm-up phase underlined Canada´s abilities as Canada defeated Italy A and Russia in the Churchill Cup in June before knocking over the USA twice in August. The impressive results were only a prelude of what was to come as Canada debuted at Rugby World Cup 2011 with a win over Tonga - something that was regarded as an upset. The player to score the match winning try was Phil MacKenzie, Canada´s left winger contracted to Esher in the RFU Championship. MacKenzie also scored an outstanding try vs Japan several weeks latter and had also impressed in both the Churchill Cup and the August test matches. Mackenzie proved the punters wrong as Canada performed well in the World Cup with only the match vs New Zealand being out of Canada´s reach. MacKenzie was the stereotypical Canadian perfomer - a player of quality who is not exposed to regular top level rugby but when given the chance is able to impress. If given the chance to perform for a first division side it is likely that he´d succeed.

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