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Written By: Doug Crosse
The 2018 Canadian Rugby Championship has a lot more riding on it than in previous years, as Canadian team coach Kingsley Jones has made this a key part of his repechage preparations.
The 27 or so centrally-located players that make up the domestic base will be sprinkled among the four teams to give them some intense competition. More importantly, they will be placed strategically in some combinations to allow cohesion of units to take place.
Essentially, this is uncharted territory for Canadian rugby as this is the first time it will participate in the four nation winner-take-all tournament in France this November.
That's why Jones being able to assess, work with CRC coaches, and speak directly to the players is such an invaluable tool. The CRC path was created under Kieran Crowley and replaced the Rugby Canada Super League. In hindsight, while local RCSL enthusiasts were disappointed in the move, imagine if Jones and his coaches had to go to half a dozen cities and watch their players in a more diluted competition?
Players selected for the August tour to France will not be available for the opening rounds of the CRC, but the championship round from August 23rd to 26th will have all players involved.
The important thing now is that everyone pulls on the same end of the rope. That doesn't mean that a CRC coach must pick a team that is not his absolute best in order to serve the needs of Jones. But the consultative approach will allow for requests to be made about combos, styles of play, or keys to strategy in parts of a game.
The really valuable stuff will be the semifinals/finals weekend in Calgary. There, Jones and crew will be on hand and meeting with the coaches and players and setting a clear course for the next round of national team warm-ups coming in the early Fall ahead of the repechage.
The prospect of playing three other teams in a short turnaround is not new, but the fact that any slip-up could mean disaster is putting players into a very pressurized environment. The short turnaround of the CRC play-off weekend will mimic this and get things like player preparation, recovery, and meetings on track as well.
2018 CRC Schedule
Centralized Player Schedule