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Written by: Doug Crosse
The summer of 2018 is a high-pressure period for first-year coach Kingsley Jones of Canada. The three test series in Edmonton, Ottawa, and Halifax are his biggest opportunity to dial in his squad ahead of the last gasp of World Cup 2019 qualifiers in the repechage which takes place in November.
In a normal year, a coach looks to the summer series as a chance to get his team ticking over, staying with combinations to see how they rate and to get some wins for the fan base.
This year, the matches against Scotland, Russia, and the USA will be the laboratory that Professor Jones uses to get a lot of his systems right – and more importantly – to build up his twenty-minute men, i.e. the replacements off the bench.
So while he would love to put out a side of his very best starters and go for a win each week, he will have to test those replacements and put them under some hard-core pressure, possibly starting some against Russia and the USA, or giving them a forty minute runout.
So here is what is ahead for the Canada Summer Test Series:
All-Time Record: 2 wins 5 losses
What to Expect
Not all of Scotland’s top tourists have made the trip to Canada, noticeably the twin towers – the Gray brothers are not in the lineup as Richie Gray pulled out of the tour last week with an injury. Also coming in as injury cover for tour captain Stuart McInally, who pulled a calf muscle prior to departure for Canada, is uncapped Glasgow Warriors hooker Grant Stewart.
Canada ran Scotland close in their last meeting in 2014 in Toronto. A controversial red card to Jebb Sinclair snatched a likely victory from the Canadians, but what a difference four years makes. A raft of retirements, the end of the Kieran Crowley era, and now a new style of rugby from Kingsley Jones could make this a tough afternoon for the home side. As mentioned above, Jones does not have the luxury to put his best combinations out, but he does have the benefit of putting in some question marks and seeing how they respond to pressure testing.
Canada will stay competitive in the opening forty minutes and if Gordon McRorie has his good kicking boots on it will be fun to watch, but the second half will see the visitors pull away.
All-Time Record vs Russia 4-0
What to Expect:
Of the three matches this summer, this is a must-win for Coach Kingsley Jones. As the former coach of Russia, he has both the intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of his opposition, but also the weight of history as Canada has never lost to the Russians.
This is a game Canada should win and still be able to test competencies. It will be a match where some second choice players will get a start, but should things go sideways, the starters will be brought in post-haste.
Russia and head coach Marc McDermott will be looking to learn much about its team as well, with their sudden improvement in World Cup qualifying based on the European debacle of Spain, Belgium and Romania suffering heavily under World Rugby Sanctions. Russia is going to the big show in Japan for now (pending appeals by Spain and Belgium) and need to use the Canada/USA tour to try out their own formulas.
Russian Squad to Canada:
All-Time Record - 38-19-2
What to Expect:
This will be the hardest of the three matches this summer based on management of expectations. Fans suffering from the Mandela effect, the new theory that groups of people will misremember key events or outcomes, do not understand the USA is currently in much better shape in terms of the 15-a-side game. Domestic governance problems aside, the USA has a great group of players at their disposal; and, having qualified already by beating Canada in a two-game total points series, the Eagles will be confident under coach Gary Gold. The biggest question the US might have is, where the hell is Halifax? This is the furthest east the US have travelled since the World Cup qualifier held in Newfoundland in 2006.
This should be a win for the USA, but certainly, a public relations win for Canada playing in the Maritimes after a 12-year absence. Like any Canada v USA match, it will be filled with passion, but the physicality of the Polynesian forwards in the US side will build intense pressure over eighty minutes.
USA Squad to Canada:
What do you think? How will Canada do over these three test matches? We would love to hear from you – send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post the best comments!