Rugby Canada team members Jamie Cudmore and Jen Kish wear their new uniforms at the team's practice facility in Burnaby on Tuesday, June, 3, 2014.
Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER - With its spot in the 2015 World Cup of rugby already assured, Canada’s national men’s team will be seeking validation and perhaps some new fans when it faces Japan in Saturday night’s first match of the Pacific Nations Cup at Swangard Stadium.
The Canadians are ranked 15th in the world and the Japanese 12th. Saturday’s match begins at 6 p.m. and will be televised nationally by TSN.
“What would a good result mean? It would mean another stride,” Canadian coach Kieran Crowley said Tuesday at a media event to promote the game as well as unveil the team’s snappy new Under Armour uniforms. “Japan has stated they want to get to the top 10 and they’re on the right track to do that. We want to be the same as them and, to do that, you have to win these sorts of games against teams above you in the rankings.
“So it would not only help us from a team perspective as far as getting confidence within the team, but it would also help from an awareness perspective in places like Vancouver, right across Canada and on the world stage. It just helps expose rugby if you’re winning.”
The Pacific Nations Cup is a six-country competition involving the Canadians, Japanese and U.S. in one pool and Samoa, Fiji and Tonga in the other. The top team in each pool will meet in the final in November. The Canadians face the U.S. in Sacramento, Calif., on June 21. In between, they’ll play Scotland in a test match – rugby’s version of a ‘friendly’ – June 14 in Toronto.
Japan defeated Canada 16-13 in the 2013 Pacific Nations Cup final. In the last two World Cups, the teams have tied. So motivation for the Canadian side shouldn’t be lacking.
“We’ve had trouble with them and that just attests to their quality,” noted Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore, who hails from Squamish. “Japan is coming off seven games (wins) in a row here and they’re going to be very sharp. It’s very important for us to have a good starting point this summer leading into the November tests and the World Cup. It’s exciting times, especially playing at home. It’s going to be a huge test Saturday.”
The top Canadians, who play for various professional clubs in Europe, assembled last week and the squad was cut down on Sunday after a trial match Saturday at West Vancouver's Klahanie Park. According to Cudmore, the preparation time for this Saturday’s match against the Japanese has been better than usual.
“Normally we have guys coming on the Sunday with jet lag and what have you and then we try to hash together a game plan,” he said.
Other B.C. players on the team include Tyler Hotson, Harry Connor and Jason Marshall of Vancouver, Connor Braid and Phil Mack of Victoria, Adam Kleeberger of White Rock and Jake Ilnicki of Williams Lake.
Canada will be captained by 22-year-old Tyler Ardron, a native of Lakefield, Ont., who just completed his first pro season with the Ospreys rugby club in Wales.
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