Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Professional Canadian Players in Pro 12 - 2013-2014 Season

Photo: S Tiffin. Tyler Ardron scores v Uruguay 
The 2012-2013 Rabo Direct Pro 12 season will be closely followed by Canadian rugby fans due to the number of Canadian test players in the competition increasing. With Welsh region the Ospreys having made the double signing of young, up and coming winger Jeff Hassler and backrower Tyler Ardron there will be   three likely squad members of Rugby World Cup 2015 playing in the Celtic-Italian League. Together with Glasgow Warriors winger, DTH van der Merwe there are to be three Canadian international players in the Celtic-Italian league. By way of comparison when the Canadian squad was released for Rugby World Cup 2011 only two players were contracted to elite level clubs - van der Merwe and Jamie Cudmore. 

Neither Cudmore nor van der Merwe featured for Canada in the June international matches which saw Canada face Ireland and also debut in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup. Both, however, are expected to return for international duty in August when Canada plays the USA in home and away matches to determine who qualifies for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 1. Should they play then Cudmore will likely start in the secondrow and van der Merwe at outside centre. They will be joined by a number of players plying their trade in England in addition to others based in France and Canada. 

With more players playing professional rugby now than in 2011 Canada is in a better position looking towards the next Rugby World Cup. Canada´s June victories over Fiji, Tonga and the USA suggest that there is a framework in place that can develop if players are given enough game time at the professional level. The arrival of  21 year old Hassler and 22 year old Ardron in Wales is positive news for Canada as the the issue facing the national men´s team is depth. After having played well in four tests a short turn-around hampered the North American´s chances against Japan and the Asian champions were too strong. A number of players who faced Japan are likely to miss out on the Rugby World Cup Qualification matches  

A fourth Canadian will feature in the Rabo Direct Pro 12. Toronto´s Robert Barbieri will once again play for Italian side Benetton Treviso. Aged 29, Barbieri has been capped 30 times by Italy and is highly likely to play in a second Rugby World Cup come 2015. Baribieri has been playing in Italy since 2003 while van der Merwe has played for the Glasgow Warriors in Scotland since 2009. 

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