Thursday, June 5, 2014

International Rugby: Canada team named to face Japan

Photo Vancouver Sun
Canadian rugby Headcoach Kieran Crowley has named a strong lineup for Saturday's home test match against Japan. Of note is the selection of veteran Jamie Cudmore pictured to the right. The North Americans are to host the Asian nation in the opening match of the northern section of the Pacific Nations Cup. The altered format for the 2014 edition of the tournament sees Canada, Japan and the USA compete in the northern section while Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are involved in the southern division. The two winners will meet in the tournament final later in the year. 

In Canada's first test match of the year the North Americans are to face Japan at Swangard stadium in Greater Vancouver. It marks a return to British Columbia after the pacific province has struggled to secure home fixtures due to it lacking the same level of facilities found in other places, notably Ontario. Canada's last big test in British Columbia was in 2009 against Ireland.

No subsequent test match against teams rated higher than Canada have been played in British Columbia until now. The test against Japan is of great interest to followers of the Rugby World Cup as the two teams competed to draws in France 2007 and New Zealand 2011. The Vancouver region has therefore been given the opportunity of witnessing a match against a team that has troubled Canada in the past, most recently in 2013 when Japan won the test 16-13 in Asia.

It is also a welcome return for Jamie Cudmore who is to play his first June international since facing Russia in June 2011 and only his second since playing Wales in June 2005. With Clermont Auvergne having been actively involved in Semi Finals and Finals in both the Top 14 and Heineken Cup Cudmore has been rested for June internationals throughout much of his career.

Now aged 35 Cudmore is into the twilight of his career and is on track to play in a fourth Rugby World Cup. The extent of his non-involvement for Canada due to the club season can be seen by his total number of test match appearances. Despite debuting in 2002 Cudmore has played just 28 times for Canada. He is to be one of nine foreign based players in the starting lineup.

With Canada having over have of its starting players involved in professional rugby the country's open policy of encouraging players to join professional clubs abroad is clearly working in quantity terms. Whether or not it is a success in quality terms will be measured more closely in June as Canada has the chance of defeating the higher ranked Japan and Scotland at home.

The team is to be lead by twenty-two year old Tyler Ardron who will do so from the back of the scrum. The Ospreys forward has been selected ahead of Aaron Carpenter whose transformation to a test hooker appears to not have been completed. Carpenter will feature from the bench as one of only two non-Canadian based players. The other is DTH van der Merwe who was not able to feature often for the Glasgow Warriors this past season due to injury.

The lack of game time worked in favor of Taylor Paris who was one of Canada's biggest success stories this season in Europe. Another is Jeff Hassler who will join Paris in the back-three as will the top points scorer in Canadian rugby history, James Pritchard. The remainder of the starting back-line are all Canadian based players with Gordon McRourie debuting in a new-look halves combination with Harry Jones.

Cudmore and Ardron are to be a part of what is a highly promising set of back-five forwards. Canadian Sevens star John Moonlight is to play openside flanker with London Irish forward Jebb Sinclair playing at blinside. This sees one of Canada's top players from Rugby World Cup 2011, Adam Kleeberger, named on the bench. Partnering Cudmore in the second-row will be Tyler Hotson who, like Pritchard and Carpenter, plays his rugby in the RFU Championship.

Canada's starting front-row will feature two props who have gone from being based in Canada in Rubgy World Cup 2011 to now playing at the elite level in professional competitions. The New Zealand based Hubert Buydens will play at loosehead prop while Jason Marshall will play at tighthead. Marshall is to join Cudmore in the Top 14 next season. Ray Barkwill is to start the test at hooker.

1
Hubert Buydens
Manawatu Turbos
New Zealand
2
Ray Barkwill
Ontario Blues
Canada
3
Jason Marshall
La Rochelle
France
4
Tyler Hotson
London Scottish
England
5
Jamie Cudmore
Clermont Auvergne
France
6
Jebb Sinclair
London Irish
England
7
John Moonlight
Ontario Blues
Canada
8
Tyler Ardron
Ospreys
Wales
9
Gordon McRourie
Prairie Wolfpack
Canada
10
Harry Jones
BC Bears
Canada
11
Taylor Paris
Agen
France
12
Nick Blevins
Prairie Wolfpack
Canada
13
Ciaran Hearn
The Rock
Canada
14
Jeff Hassler
Ospreys
Wales
15
James Pritchard
Bedford Blues
England
16
Andrew Tiedemann
BC Bears
Canada
17
Aaron Carpenter
Cornish Pirates
England
18
Jake Ilnicki
BC Bears
Canada
19
Jon Phelan 
The Rock
Canada
20
Adam Kleeberger
BC Bears
Canada
21
Phil Mack
BC Bears
Canada
22
Connor Braid
BC Bears
Canada
23
DTH van der Merwe
Glasgow Warriors
Scotland

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