Canada coach Kingsley Jones has made two changes to his forward pack for Saturday's first leg of a Rugby World Cup qualifying series against Chile.
Hooker Eric Howard and lock Kyle Baillie come in with Andrew Quattrin and Conor Keys dropping to the bench. Veteran prop Jake Ilnicki is added to the replacements at the expense of Matt Tierney.
After Saturday's game at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., the teams head south for the Oct. 9 return leg in Valparaiso, Chile to complete the aggregate points tie.
The 21st-ranked Canadian men are coming off a 59-50 aggregate loss to the 16th-ranked U.S. Eagles that moved the Americans into a playoff with No. 17 Uruguay, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup as Americas 1 alongside No. 1 New Zealand, No. 6 France, No. 14 Italy and Africa 1 in Pool A.
A win over No. 28 Chile and Canada will face the loser of the U.S.-Uruguay series to decide Americas 2, which will qualify in Pool D alongside No. 4 England, No. 8 Argentina, No. 10 Japan and No. 13 Samoa. The loser of the Americas 2 playoff has one last chance to qualify for France 2023 via a repechage tournament.
A loss to Chile and Canada is done.
Jones said the changes for Saturday were in part to use his roster and keep everyone fresh.
"I think Kyle (Baillie) brings a wealth of experience," he said. "Conor Keys has done an exceptional job.
"We're looking at two games. Saturday evening will be halftime, so we just need to make sure we're keeping everyone fresh … The group has been fantastic. They know that 30 of us will have a part to play, whether it's starting or finishing."
The Canadians have never failed to qualify for the sport's showcase but had to do it the hard way the last time out, winning a four-team repechage after losing series to the U.S. and Uruguay.
This time around, Canada led the U.S. 34-21 after the first leg Sept. 4 in St. John's, N.L. But the Americans rallied with a 38-16 victory Sept. 11 in Glendale, Colo., as the Canadians paid for mistakes, squandered opportunities and were on the back foot most of the night as their set pieces faltered at Infinity Park Stadium.
Argentina qualified automatically from the Americas by virtue of its performance at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Uruguay became the top qualifying seed in South America by winning a three-team tournament that also included Chile and Brazil.
The Chileans moved into the Americas 2 playoff on the strength of their second-place finish at that competition.
Canada and Chile have met in recent years in the Americas Rugby Championship with the Canadians winning at hone 56-0 in 2019 and 36-15 in 2017. On the road, Canada won 33-17 in 2018 and 64-13 in 2016.
"This is a real meaningful game obviously and I think we'll see a different Chile this time out than we've played before," said Jones.
Djustice Sears-Duru, Oakville, Ont., unattached; Eric Howard, Ottawa, NOLA Gold (MLR); Tyler Rowland, Mississauga, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Corey Thomas, Perth, Australia, Los Angeles Giltinis (MLR); (MLR); Kyle Baillie, Summerside, P.E.I., NOLA Gold (MLR): Lucas Rumball (capt.), Markham, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Matt Heaton, Godmanchester, Que., Rugby ATL (MLR); Siaki Vikilani, Burnaby, B.C., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Ross Braude, Pretoria, South Africa, Toronto Arrows (MLR); Peter Nelson, Dungannon, Northern Ireland, Stade Aurillacois Cantal Auvergne (France); Kainoa Lloyd, Mississauga, Ont., James Bay AA; Spencer Jones, Cambridge, New Zealand. Toronto Arrows (MLR); Ben LeSage, Calgary, Toronto Arrows (MLR); Brock Webster, Uxbridge, Ont., Canada Sevens; Cooper Coats, Halifax, Canada Sevens.
Andrew Quattrin, Holland Landing, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Cole Keith, Apohaqui, N.B., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Jake Ilnicki, Williams Lake, B.C., unattached; Conor Keys, Stittsvile, Ont., Rugby ATL (MLR); Michael Smith, White Rock, B.C., San Diego Legion (MLR); Jason Higgins, Cork, Ireland, Toronto Arrows (MLR); Rob Povey, Long Buckly, England, Houston Sabercats (MLR); Patrick Parfrey, St. John's, N.L., Toronto Arrows (MLR).
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2021