Sunday, July 14, 2013

Professional Canadian Players in France - 2013-2014 season

Photo Zimbio: Jamie Cudmore carries against Toulon in the Heineken Cup Final
Ranked fifteenth in the world Canada is ranked lower than only two countries yet to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015. With the top three placed sides per pool from New Zealand 2011 all gaining direct qualification to England 2011 Canada is the third seed in terms of those involved in the qualification process. Ahead of Canada are Fiji and Japan, two teams which Canada knows very well. All three are certain to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 with Fiji having the draw from hell as after defeating the Cook Islands to confirm its place in the tournament it will face all of Australia, England and Wales in Pool A. Japan awaits the North American runner-up in Pool B which also contains Samoa, Scotland and South Africa while the North American winner will play in Pool D and have a tougher ask of France, Ireland, Italy and Europe 2, possibly Romania.

A number of players involved in seeing Canada qualify play their rugby in France while the chances are that the Canadian squad for Rugby World Cup 2015 itself will also have a contingent of French based players. Canada is to have players in the first, second and third divisions of French rugby who could go on to play in the World Cup. One player who many are wanting to see is Clermont Auvergne veteran Jamie Cudmore. The Canadian enforcer has been playing his rugby for the 2010 French champions since 2005 and has long held down a starting position in the first choice team. Prior to 2005 Cudmore previously played for Grenoble and Llanelli. Now aged 34 Cudmore formed a secondrow partnership with former Scottish international Nathan Hines last season. With Hines being 36 together the secondrow had 70 years of age. 

Cudmore is to be the only Canadian in the Top 14. It has been the case for several seasons now and is contrast to the squad for Rugby World Cup 2007 which saw Cudmore joined by a host of players contracted to Top 14 clubs including Mike James, Justin Mensah-Coker, Mike Pyke, Ryan Smith, David Spicer, Morgan Williams and Colin Yukes. But despite Cudmore being the only Top 14 player in Canada´s squad four years later the North Americans had a better tournament as Canada defeated Tonga and drew with Japan. The 2013-2014 Pro d2 season will see three Canadians involved. All are likely to be involved in Rugby World Cup 2015. Two of the players are frontrowers with Jason Marshall playing for La Rochelle which was relegated after one season. The more recently relegated Agen, which finished thirteenth last season, has signed Taylor Paris from the Glasgow Warriors. 

Paris is one of the new generation of Canadian players. Still a teenager, he was included in the Canadian squad for Rugby World Cup 2011. His move to the Pro d2 is certain to see him recieve significantly more game time which validates the decision entirely. It is a similar situation to Cameron Pierce. The secondrower is to play for Pau this season after having previously been involved in  the Clermont Auvergne academy. Pierce along with the English based Brett Beukeboom and Tyler Hotson is likely to be the secondrowers come England 2015. Should Cudmore be managed sufficiently then he could join them to lead the frontfive in a similar manner to how he did in New Zealand 2011.

Further down there are to be more Canadian forwards playing in France. Former Canadian international backrower Josh Jackson is contracted to Périgueux. The much younger Jon Phelan who has been in the Canadian test team in more recent times is to be playing for the northern French team of Lille. There are possibilities for either or both players to feature in the August matches against the USA but he coaching history of Kieran Crowley would suggest it is not likely.

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