Canada men's rugby team to play in new four-team tournament in Spain in November
With rugby tests hard to come by, Canada coach Kingsley Jones is looking forward to seeing his team return to action so soon after a pair of August games in Tonga.
Canada will join host Spain, Brazil and the U.S. in the La Vila International Rugby Cup, a new men's tournament that will run Nov. 11 to 18 at the El Pantano stadium in the coastal town of Villajoyosa, 365 kilometres southeast of Madrid.
"It's not such a big gap between (the Tonga games) and the November tests," said Jones. "Cohesion and continuity are a key thing in test rugby … We see it as the continuation of our Pacific Islands tour. And it's great to have an opportunity to play two teams in the top 20."
The Americans are ranked 18th in the world while Spain is No. 19, Canada No. 23 and Brazil No. 26, All four sides failed to qualify for the World Cup.
World Rugby is funding the competition, which sees Canada face Spain and the U.S. take on Brazil on Nov. 11. The winners will face off in the Nov. 18 final with the losers meeting in a third-place playoff.
“Rugby World Cup 2023 has demonstrated how much our performance unions benefit from playing regularly, not only against the best teams in the world but also in competitive matches against each other," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“As well as broader discussions on the calendar, World Rugby is continuing to work extremely hard to create and fund opportunities like this, working with new towns and partners with the ultimate goal being to increase competitiveness across the board.”
The matches are the first for the Canadian men since the 28-3 and 36-12 losses in Tonga, which was preparing for the World Cup.
Some of the Canadian players have remained on the West Coast, training in Langford, B.C., with the Pacific Pride. Others have been there longer, working with Michael Deasy, Rugby Canada's head strength and conditioning coach, so Jones is optimistic about their fitness ahead of the Spain tournament.
A long list of 43 has been named, from which a 32-player travelling roster will be selected. The team is scheduled to leave Nov. 1 for Spain.
There are question-marks over some players. Scrum half Ross Braude is getting married while forward Travis Larsen was not picked because his wife is about to give birth.
Flanker Sion (pronounced Sean) Parry is injured. Backs Spencer Jones and Gradyn Bowd are unavailable.
New faces include Jamin Hodgkins, a former Canadian under-20 back who attends Cardiff Met University and has played for the Atlantic Selects.
Canada Roster Long List
Andrew Quattrin, Holland Landing, Ont., New England Free Jacks (MLR); Callum Botchar, Vancouver, New Plymouth Old Boys (New Zealand); Cole Keith, Apohaqui, N.B., New England Free Jacks (MLR); Conor Keys, Stittsville, Ont., New England Free Jacks (MLR); Conor Young, Yamba, Australia, New England Free Jacks (MLR); Dewald Kotze, Edmonton, Dallas Jackals (MLR); Djustice Sears-Duru, Oakville, Ont., San Diego Legion (MLR); Emerson Prior, Brockville, Ont., Utah Warriors (MLR); Foster Dewitt, Courtney, B.C., New England Free Jacks (MLR); Izzak Kelly, White Rock, B.C., Spotswood United RFC (New Zealand); Jake Thiel, Victoria, James Bay AA; Kyle Baillie, Summerside, P.E.I., Old Glory DC (MLR); Kyle Steeves, Winnipeg, Dallas Jackals (MLR); Liam Murray, Langley, B.C., Dallas Jackals (MLR); Lucas Rumball, Toronto, Toronto Arrows; Mason Flesch, Cobourg, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Matthew Klimchuk, Regina, Pacific Pride (MLR); Matthew Oworu, Calgary, Pacific Pride; Piers Von Dadelszen, Vancouver, Oxford University; Siaki Vikilani, Vancouver, B.C., American Raptors (Super Rugby Americas); Tyler Rowland, Mississauga, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Tyler Wong, North Vancouver, Toronto Arrows (MLR); Zephyr Melnyk, Gabriola Island, B.C., Pacific Pride.
Andrew Coe, Markham, Ont., Rugby New York (MLR); Ben LeSage, Calgary, New England Free Jacks (MLR); Ciaran Breen, Victoria, B.C., Toronto Arrows (MLR); David Richard, Milton, Ont., Mississauga Blues RFC; D’Shawn Bowen, Toronto, Toronto Arrows (MLR); Gabe Casey, Ottawa, University of Victoria; Isaac Olson, Vernon, B.C., New England Free Jacks; Jack Shaw, Oakville, Ont., Los Angeles (MLR); Jamin Hodgkins, Bermuda, Cardiff Met University; Jason Higgins, Cork, Ireland, San Diego Legion (MLR); Josh Thiel, Victoria, James Bay AA; Josiah Morra, Toronto, Toronto Saracens; Kainoa Lloyd, Mississauga, Ont., Houston SaberCats (MLR); Liam Bowman, Oakville, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Mitch Richardson, Stoney Creek, Ont., Toronto Arrows (MLR); Noah Bain, Abbotsford, B.C., University of Victoria; Peter Nelson, Dungannon, Northern Ireland, Toronto Arrows (MLR); Reid Watkins, Okotoks, Alta., Seattle Seawolves (MLR); Robbie Povey, Northampton, England, Houston SaberCats (MLR); Ross Braude, Pretoria, South Africa, Toronto Arrows (MLR).
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 17, 2023