Tyler Ardron captains a Canadian side with few surprises for the Rugby World Cup kicking off later this month in Japan.
Ardron, a powerful back-rower who plays his club rugby in New Zealand for the Chiefs, also led Canada at the 2015 tournament but only saw action in two matches due to injury. Star winger DTH van der Merwe, who plays professionally for Glasgow Warriors in the Pro 14 league, will be attending his fourth World Cup.
Coach Kingsley Jones' 31-man roster features 14 players from North America's Major League Rugby including seven from the Toronto Arrows. Six players are with clubs in Europe with six more currently unattached. Four are with Canadian amateur sides.
There are 17 forwards and 14 backs, with Jones saying the tough choices came in players 27 to 31.
Fullback Theo Sauder, winger Kainoa Lloyd and prop Rob Brouwer are among those who did not make the cut. Sauder, a 23-year-old valued highly by Jones, has just come back from a shoulder injury.
"He's got a little more work to do," Jones said of Sauder's injury.
Lloyd and Brouwer were victims of the numbers games at wing and prop. Scrum half Will Percillier, locks Frank Carson and Tyler Duguid and flanker Quentin James were among the under-20 up-and-comers considered.
Irish-born back Peter Nelson, added to the squad prior to the Pacific Nations Cup this summer thanks to his Toronto-born grandmother, makes the squad. A left-footed kicker, he can play both fly half and fullback.
The roster features three hookers and three scrum halves with Jones electing not to skimp on specialty positions. There is flexibility in both the forward pack and backline when it comes to position.
The coach noted that veteran centre Ciaran Hearn could play almost every position in the backs if needed. Gordon McRorie can play both scrum half and fly half.
Canada has gone with five props.
The Canadian men, ranked 21st in the world, have been drawn in Pool B alongside No. 1 New Zealand, No. 5 South Africa, No. 11 Italy and No. 23 Namibia. Canada opens Sept. 26 against Italy in Fukuoka City.
"It's a tough task but it's exciting," said Jones, a former Welsh captain who was part of Russia's coaching staff at the 2011 World Cup.
"The chance to play against the All Blacks and Springboks doesn't come along that often in players' careers," he added.
Canada will be targeting Namibia, which it plays last in the group stage, on Oct. 13 in Kamaishi City.
Canada has never missed a Rugby World Cup. But aside from 1991, when it reached the quarterfinals, it has not fared well there. Its overall tournament record is 7-20-2 with wins over Fiji, Namibia, Romania (twice) and Tonga (three times).
The Canadians have gone a combined 1-11-2 over the last three tournaments.
British bookmaker William Hill has Canada — and Russia — at 2,500/1 to win the tournament. Namibia and Uruguay have odds of 5,000/1.
Canada, Uruguay and Russia are all 125/1 to survive the group phase. Namibia is 150/1 if you want an even longer shot.
The Canadians were the last team to qualify for the 20-country tournament, winning a repechage event in France last November with victories over No. 24 Hong Kong, No. 28 Germany and No. 34 Kenya. Canada had previously lost qualifying series against the 14th-ranked Americans and No. 19 Uruguay.
The Canadians play their final warmup match Friday against the U.S. at Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium.
Canada is 2-8-0 in 2019 with losses to the U.S. (twice), No. 10 Fiji, No. 15 Tonga, No. 19 Uruguay and No. 26 Brazil as well as an Argentina XV and Irish club side Leinster. The lone wins were 56-0 over No. 29 Chile on Feb. 22 and 45-13 over the B.C. all-stars last Friday.
The Canadian men lost all four matches at the 2105 World Cup, outscored 131-58 in losses to Ireland, France, Italy and Romania.
Tyler Ardron (capt.), Chiefs, Lakefield, Ont.; Kyle Baillie, New Orleans Gold (MLR), Summerside, P.E.I.; Justin Blanchet, unattached, Montreal; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Hubert Buydens, unattached (MLR), Saskatoon; Luke Campbell, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Victoria; Andrew Coe, Markham Irish, Markham, Ont.; Jeff Hassler, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Okotoks, Alta.; Ciaran Hearn, unattached, Conception Bay South, N.L.; Matt Heaton, Rugby ATL (MLR), Godmanchester, Que.; Eric Howard, New Orleans Gold, Ottawa; Jake Ilnicki, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Williams Lake, B.C.; Cole Keith, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Sussex, N.B.; Conor Keys, unattached, Stittsville, Ont.; Ben LeSage, Calgary Canucks, Calgary; Phil Mack, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Victoria; Jamie Mackenzie, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Oakville, Ont.; Gordon McRorie, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Peter Nelson, unattached, Dungannon, Northern Ireland; Shane O'Leary, Nottingham Rugby (England), Cambellton, N.B.; Evan Olmstead, unattached, Vancouver; Patrick Parfrey, Toronto Arrows (MLR), St. John's, N.L.; Taylor Paris, Castres Olympique (France), Barrie, Ont.; Benoit Piffero, Blagnac SCR (France), Issoire, France; Andrew Quattrin, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Holland Landing, Ont.; Lucas Rumball, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Toronto; Djustice Sears-Duru, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Oakville, Ont.; Mike Sheppard, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Brampton, Ont.; Matt Tierney, Castres Olympique (France), Oakville, Ont.; Conor Trainor, USON Nevers (France), Vancouver; DTH van der Merwe, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland), Regina.
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