There’s only a month to go before the Rugby World Cup, and Canada’s men’s team still has a lot of work ahead of it.
Local rugby fans will get to see the work in progress when the side takes on Irish super club Leinster at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton (3 p.m.).
For one thing, there’s the matter of determining the roster that will head to Japan for the tournament and who will get on the field when the team plays its first match on Sept. 26 against Italy in Fukuoka.
“There’s a lot of guys putting their hand up,” Canadian head coach Kingsley Jones said. “We have 36 players and only 31 can go to the World Cup.”
“There are another two weeks for the coaches and I to decide the makeup of the group.”
“There’s really good competition,” Canadian captain Tyler Ardron said. “Some of the guys are getting nervous but that’s the way you want it because that’s when you play your best.”
Then there’s the matter of getting ready to face Italy as well as New Zealand, South Africa, and Namibia. Canada may have been a little light on preparation during the recently-completed Pacific Nations Cup but time is not entirely against it.
“Some teams were not quite where they wanted to be a few weeks ago, but the beauty is you can make that up quickly,” Jones said. “And you do that by playing.”
“We’re about a month away, that’s for sure,” Ardron said. “But we’re in a spot where we can be where we need to come World Cup time.”
The game against Leinster will be a true test. They are the two-time defending champions of Guiness Pro14, a league of top clubs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and South Africa. Six internationals are featured on their travelling roster.
“They’re one of the best teams in the world,” Ardron side. “So they’re going to be a really tough side, really well-drilled. So we’re going to have to do something special every time we want to get over the line.”
“I really don’t think we could have asked for better in terms of quality,” Jones said. “They’ll be stronger than some national teams in many ways and also they play together.”
“They’ve also got a winning habit. They don’t lose many games so we’ll have a big challenge in our hands. But if we can fight someone tougher than we’re going to fight in the competition, that’s a good thing for us. It’s a big challenge but one we’ll take a lot from.”
It’s the first of three send-off matches for Canada. The team will take on a B.C. all-star team in Langford on Aug. 30 and the U.S. in Vancouver on Sept. 7 before heading across the Pacific.