|Photo: Rugby Canada|
Having come off three straight home wins against the USA, Fiji and Tonga Canadians had good reason to feel confident of completing an upset win over Ireland in Toronto on Saturday. The match was Ireland´s second of a two match tour after the Western Europeans had been far from impressive against the USA in Houston, Texas last Saturday. Ireland´s 15-12 win saw the men in green escape from Texas with a win but it came without scoring a try. The combination of Canada´s good performance with Ireland´s less than impressive outing provided the setting for an intriguing match.
The match was played at the BMO Field in Toronto, the unofficial new home of the Canadian men´s rugby team. Canada hosted the USA at the venue in 2011 and did so against Italy in 2012. This year it has two matches at the ground - yestrerday´s match against Ireland and Canada´s home Rugby World Cup Qualifier against the USA in August. The decision of the country´s governing body to use a larger than normal venue comes down to success. Rugby is proving increasingly popular enabling Rugby Canada to play in front of larger crowds than previously. The official attendance for Canada v Ireland was the largest ever recorded as 20,396 spectators watched a brave Canada go down 40-14.
The match attendance was not the only record set. The long standing scoring record held by Gareth Rees was overtaken as the soon to turn 34 James Pritchard kicked nine points to go three points clear of Rees. Pritchard is not likely to play in Rugby World Cup 2015 due to his age and due to the emerging young talent Canada has to play wing and fullback. Playing with Pritchard in the back-three was Taylor Paris who is to play in France second season for Agen in the Pro d2. Aged just 20 Paris is an outstanding prospect for Canada with the national team also having the likes of Matt Evans, Jeff Hassler, Phil MacKenzie and DTH van der Merwe all are professional outside backs in Europe. They are likely to all be starting for Canada at England 2015 with possibly Phil Mack, Conor Trainor and Connor Braid or Connor McCann joining them to complete the backline.
Pritchard played at three Rugby World Cup´s, for a total of nine matches. His test debut came in 2003. He has played professional rugby in England and France for well over a decade. Should he step down for Rugby World Cup 2015 there is still a lot to accomplish with two crucial games taking place in August against the USA to determine who qualifies for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 1 and who has to face-off against Uruguay for the right to be Americas 2.