Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 with an eye to 2015 - Canada´s Conor McCann



19 year old Canadian flyhalf Conor McCann is a player that looms as the long term solution for Canada at flyhalf. Canada has had capable players in the position over the years but not since Gareth Rees has the country had a player able to control the game. He played in the first four Rugby World Cup´s and was key to Canada reaching the Quarter Finals in 1991. Subsequent players have not been able to have the same impact on matches for Canada with Bobby Ross and Jared Barker have mixed performances at Rugby World Cup 2003. Ryan Smith and Ander Monro played flyhalf for Canada at Rugby World Cup 2007 and 2011 with Smith being prefered for most of the 2007 campaign and then him playing at outside centre in 2011 with Monro being the first choice flyhalf. 

Both Smith and Monro were accomplished players. Both played professional rugby with Smith playing for Montauban in the Top 14 and Monro playing for Edinburgh. Rugby World Cup 2011 was the end of the road for both, however as neither featured in 2012 for Canada and nor will they again. In their place Canadian Headcoach Kieran Crowley tried all of and Matt Evans, Connor Braid, Harry Jones at flyhalf in test matches in 2012. A fourth player, Nathan Hirayama was the reserve flyhalf at Rugby World Cup 2011. All are young players but all are not necessarily flyhalves. Hirayama has played nine tests with two of them being in the run-on team. One of the two saw him playing at fullback. Harry Jones has only one test cap but has played a lot at fullback as has Matt Evans who has played fullback, wing, centre and flyhalf for Canada. Of Connor Braid´s four tests two have been starting at flyhalf. His debut, however, was as a replacement fullback against Belgium in 2010. 

In addition to being versatile players they are all a part of Canada´s plans with Hirayama and Jones being  firm members of Canada´s Rugby Sevens squad while Braid and Evans are both playing in Engalnd for second division teams. Conor McCann, on the other hand, is younger than all of them and is an academy member for French Top 14 giants Clermont Auvergne. While he has not played for the top side he has nonetheless been exposed to top level facilities and training while getting game time for the junior team. He has been there as part of the Clermont Espoirs for close to one year now and his chances of playing for the senior Clermont side are looking optimistic as the clubs second choice flyhalf, David Skrela is being released at the end of this season. During his time in France McCann has been able to develop as a player and the club has colaborated with Rugby Canada´s needs to see him to represent Canada at junior level and to play Rugby Sevens. McCann played for Canada at the 2012 IRB Junior World Trophy in Utah where he impressed at flyhalf against Georgia, Japan and Zimbabwe.

He has Rugby World Cup 2015 written all over him and his debut for the senior mens team could very well come as soon as June 2012. Canada is to play in the altered Pacific Nations Cup featuring Fiji, Japan, Tonga and the USA and also host Ireland and have a warm up match against the USA in a non-international. Canada is certain to field a variety of players in this demanding schedule as it  looks to field its top side in mid-late July as Canada will face the USA home and away in Rugby World Cup qualifying matches. The winner will qualify for England 2015. McCann turns 20 in early July and could very well be in the 23, if not starting, against the USA Eagles. 

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