Canada is seen by some as favourites to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup repechage tournament set for November in France but they are not as good as they seem.
Rugby in Canada has dropped in popularity and growth is probably due to a dip in the men’s national team’s performance. Since the 2015 World Cup, Canada has only won eight games in 31 contests, half of them in 2016.
In the four games Canada has played against Uruguay from 2016 to 2018, Uruguay has won three including the two Americas Repechage play-off games which would have ensured Canada a spot in the 2019 World Cup had they won.
Canada still has a chance though. The team will travel to Marseille in France to play Germany, Hong Kong and Kenya in an intercontinental repechage tournament to determine who will have the final spot in the ninth world cup, hosted in Japan.
To the most casual rugby fan, this may seem easy enough. On paper, Canada is the strongest team of the four but in reality, they have long struggled to play a full 80-minute rugby game and remain disciplined, especially when it counts.
In Kenya, the Canadian side will face a team more akin to the strong, physically-minded but speedy big bodied Pacific Islander teams such as Fiji and Samoa. Even though Canada typically has a more physical than technical style of play, it is something they have traditionally struggled with.
Canada and Kenya will meet on matchday one, Sunday November 11 of the round-robin repechage from 6.30pm Kenyan time.
However, like Canada, the Kenyans have been throwing most of their efforts and money into Rugby Sevens compared to 15s rugby. Canada is more established in the 15s game which will give them an edge, but if anyone will give Canada a lot of trouble, it will be the Simbas.
Germany lucked into the final qualification with Romania, Georgia and Spain all being disqualified due to eligibility laws.
If either of the first two nations were still in play, Canada surely would have very little chance of nabbing the final spot for the world cup. Hong Kong is one of the rising Asian rugby countries but still have a long way to go. They will probably be one of the more interesting of the four teams to watch, trying to emulate the brand of rugby Japan plays – flashy, yet disciplined.
Sunday, November 11
16:00 Hong Kong - Germany
18:30 Canada - Kenya
Saturday, November 17
16:00 Hong Kong - Kenya
18:30 Canada - Germany
Friday, November 23,
20:00 Kenya - Germany
22:30 Hong Kong - Canada
This weekly sports column appeared on 100milefreepress.net on the Commentary corner