It’s a largely predictable side picked by Canada to take part in Langford, but there were a couple surprises, including one unexpected blast from the past. Eight members of the CRC champion Ontario Blues have been picked, seven from the Wolf Pack, five BC Bears and only two from the Atlantic Rock. Three played no part at all in the regional competition, while a few others saw limited action.
Up front the dominant Ontario front row leads the way, with destructive loosehead Tom Dolezel in particularly good form after some time spent on the shelf recovering from injury. Former test hooker Ryan Hamilton has also returned from a long-term neck problem just in time to make a claim ahead of the World Cup. Canadian-born but Australian-raised James Smith gets a chance at tighthead, while his fellow Wolf Pack front rower Peter Houlihan gets some well deserved recognition after being largely ignored by national selectors up until now.
As expected Aaron Flagg has returned from a summer in New Zealand to try and earn a second row spot on the November tour. Joining him will be CRC standouts Callum Morrison and Evan Olmstead, both of whom impressed both with their workrate and aerial skills. Kyle Baillie returns to the squad for the second time as both lock and back row cover though he only managed a couple outings for the Rock at the tail end of the season.
After initially being listed as ‘injured’, both Admir Cejvanovic and Nanyak Dala have been included in the back row. Dala sat out the entire CRC and will need game time ahead of November, so this seems a better fit than a trip to the Gold Coast with the 7s side. Wolf Pack captain Kyle Gilmour has been given the honour of leading the side, and is joined by his co-captain, New Zealand born Clay Panga, a versatile back rower who has been around the top of the domestic scene for several years now.
Notable absentees from the pack are the Rumball brothers, Jacob and Lucas, but it seems university commitments will preclude their involvement this time. The same goes for Andrew Ferguson, who surely would have featured heavily otherwise. Outside of Gordon McRorie he has been the form scrumhalf of the competition, and Jamie Mackenzie should consider himself fortunate to be there in his place.
A sort of left field selection is that of Guiseppe du Toit. The University of Victoria flyhalf was called into the squad last season as an 18 year old, and it was no surprise that he looked overwhelmed. He wasn’t required for this year’s national u20 side or the BC Bears, but evidently Kieran Crowley rates him highly enough to leave out Shawn Windsor, the starting flyhalf in all six of Ontario’s games this season.
Arguably the biggest shock is the recall of 2007 World Cup veteran Derek Daypuck just four months shy of his 37th birthday and 7 years removed from his last Canadian cap. The Blues captain has been in fine form over the past two seasons but is not the sharp stepper of his youth. With most of the other midfield options sent to Australia, Crowley has opted for Daypuck’s experience and handy left boot to help guide an otherwise very inexperienced back division.
Strangely only one winger has been selected in Dan Moor, though 18 year old Ontario fullback Andrew Coe is likely to find himself there with BC’s Sean Ferguson the front runner in the no15 jersey. Of course the press release claimed that the squad was 26 strong despite listing only 25 names, so you never know who could turn up come game day.
The forward selection looks about the best available domestically and should give a good account of itself. It will be interesting to see how the scrum gets on against Uruguay first up. Out wide there are too many key names absent to do much damage, but with a conservative game plan it might be enough to do the job against a decent American squad. Argentina are a step above but as long as key players like Hamilton, Dala, and particularly McRorie stand out it will be something to cheer about.
Saturday, October 11 – 16:30 PST – vs Uruguay ‘A’
Wednesday, October 15 – 20:00 PST – vs USA Select XV
Sunday, October 19 – 16:30 PST – vs Argentina Jaguars