Friday, April 19, 2013

Retro Friday - Morgan Williams double against France at Rugby World Cup 1999

Snow, James and Williams in 2007
Having only three test caps to his name an unknown young Canadian scrumhalf almost caused a massive upset in Rugby World Cup 1999. Morgan Williams made his debut for Canada against Tonga as a replacement three months before the World Cup. He thern started at scrumhalf in Canada´s warm-up matches against Wales and England to stake his claim for the Canadian number nine shirt in Wales 1999. He was rewarded as he started all of Canada´s matches in the tournament and went on to hold down the position until the end of Rugby World Cup 2007. After having played fifty-four tests he retired after France 2007 but came back in 2008 to face Portugal, Wales and Scotland. Of his ten appearances for Canada at Rugby World Cup´s he was involved in wins over Namibia and Tonga and a draw against Namibia. He most notable performance, however, came in a losing effort against France in 1999. Joining Williams were some big names in the history of Canadian rugby including Gareth Rees who started at flyhalf, Winston Stanley on the wing, Mike James who played secondrow and Rod Snow who started at prop.

In a round one pool match France hosted Canada in Béziers in Rugby World Cup 1999. Such was the structure of the tournament that despite it being Wales 1999 Canada, like most teams, never got to play a match in Wales. Instead Canada´s three pool matches were played in France with the North Americans subsequently faicng Fiji in  Bordeaux and Namibia in Toulouse. Changes for Rugby World Cup 1999 had seen the number of participants increased from sixteen to twenty and with each of the Five Nations hosting one pool each it was only the winner of each pool that would win directly qualify for the Quarter Finals. The three other places were determined by an additional knock-out round which featured the five pool runner-up´s and the overall best third place finisher. 

After having started brilliantly against France Canada was unable to put in an 80 minute performance as France powered home to save the match. Canada therefore needed to defeat Fiji and Namibia to finish second in the pool. After a good first half Fiji took over to win the match 38-22 which meant Canada´s only hope was for something to give in another pool. It had one last chance as its final pool match against Namibia  could see Canada advance if it could score plenty of points and if Wales could defeat Samoa in Pool D. Canada looked like advancing after completing a 72-11 win over Namibia. The nine tries to one result was just what Canada needed and aside from backrower Danny Baugh being red carded the match could be regarded as perfectr from a Canadian perspective. But Canada did not reach the play-off stage due to Samoa upsetting Wales 38-31 in questionable fashion. Had there been video referee´s in 1999 then Wales would have likely been the winners. In the end Canada finished as the second best third-placed side from a pool after Argentina, Samoa and Wales had all won two and lost one match in Pool D. All three made the play-off´s with both Wales and Argentina appearing in the Quarter Finals.

The Canadian players from the 1999 campaign did themselves proud and can look back on the rugby played against France and Namibia as being truely impressive. Canada was unfortunate not to get the win over France but let itself down by not playing to the same standards against Fiji. The game against France was a reminder of the global spread of rugby in that there are team capable of knocking-over the professional sides on their day. A number of Canada´s players were professional and others went on to be. At the time Morgan Williams was based in France playing for Bordeaux-Begles. He later went on to play for Stade Français and Albi and also spent two seasons in England playing for Saracens. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm uploading some of the old Pumas stuff on this channel now.