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Written By: Doug Crosse
What must the Canadian men’s rugby team be saying amongst themselves after Saturday’s troubling loss to Russia?
They will no doubt have by now watched the monster performance of the USA winning a first-ever test over a Tier 1 nation with a score of 30-29, the same Tier 1 team that handed Canada a 48-10 loss, and wonder what awaits in Halifax.
Now is not the time for platitudes.
Coach Kingsley Jones cannot put hopeful bon mots out to the public, saying they learned a lot, that if we stick to our systems there will be a better result. The USA will be a punishing team. If you watched the last ten minutes of the Scotland-USA match, it was incredible how big and athletic the US forwards were. The back row just hoovered up pressure from the anxious Scots. Yes, the US allowed the injury-time try in the corner, but that was after many phases and many waves of defensive effort.
The only thing positive Jones can do is put out what he believes to be his best team. The squad that will be the starting fifteen in Repechage this fall. Test those guys and give them a chance to gel under pressure. Don’t waste this game for experimenting with combinations. After two games, Jones and his mate/assistant Henri Paul know who is who and where players fit in the depth chart.
The most honest assessment about Canada currently is that they are not big enough in key positions and across the board in general.
We have good rugby players but don’t have the big athletes coach Gary Gold has at his disposal right now.
The Americans are riding a seven-game winning streak – undefeated in 2018. That is something and people should not romanticize how we once dominated the USA. That kind of talk belongs in the bin with those that lament the state of the modern game because of 'look what Canada did in the amateur era in 1991'.
Different time, different circumstances.
This may be the lowest point in Canadian rugby in the past thirty years or so. Some accuse me of being a fanboy, an apologist because I once worked for the organization and the team. I want nothing but the best for Canadian rugby, and me calling it as I see it and stating it for what it is frankly doesn't move the needle in terms of making a change or galvanizing the fan base.
People simply shouldn't be under any illusion that this is a competitive Canadian team right now.
And for those who are already baying for the firing of Kingsley Jones, that plainly isn't the path to be taken right now. Not this close to the repechage. Should that mission falter, that will be the time to usher him out.
Now, despite that cheery prelude, here is what was good against Russia:
Debutant Theo Sauder at fly-half. This has been a problem area and with time Sauder could grow nicely into the role. Lucas Rumball at flanker. He can agitate, is quick, and has good ball recovery skills. He doesn’t need the pressure of being captain right now.
No. 8 Luke Campbell. I love that he is a school teacher, that he rolls through like a 4 x 4 in a mud patch unapologetically, and gets to his destination. A few more like him and you have something to talk about in the forwards.
If there is a tactic, it should be playing quick ball, the quickest ball they can manage. Get it to the edges, ask some questions of our back three, and integrate that pace more into the 12-13 channel.
I hope Atlantic Canada enjoys having Canada and the US on the right coast for the first time since 2006.
Have a good day, but do not worry about the win, worry about how Canada plays, and look for the bright spots.
That’s all that can be done right now.