Americas Rugby Championship showcase for Canada’s next ones

Not that there’s any pressure, but the number of opportunities are shrinking to impress coaches prior to the rugby 2015 World Cup in England.

One of those comes this week when the national B teams of Canada, Argentina, Uruguay and the U.S. open the 2014 IRB Americas Championship on Saturday at Westhills Stadium in Langford.

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“It’s a pretty important time,” said Canadian team head coach Kieran Crowley of Mill Bay, noting the opportunities are now down to three — this tournament, the selection trials for the November Test window and a final selection camp in March.

The Canadian team for the IRB Americas Championship was named Monday and includes several Island players and those from Island teams.

The Castaway Wanderers of Oak Bay will be represented by Nanyak Dala, Aaron Flagg, Clay Panga, Doug Wooldrige and Ray Barkwill; the University of Victoria Vikes by Pat Kay, Guiseppe Du Toit and Jamie Mackenzie; James Bay by Nick Blevins; and Victoria’s Callum Morrison of the UBCOB Ravens was also selected.

Kyle Gilmour from St. Albert, Alta., will captain Canada in Langford.

“These guys have put in the work and all played well [in the Canadian summer domestic circuit],” said Crowley, a former World Cup-champion New Zealand All Black.

Among the most intriguing players is Kay, the UVic Vikes standout from Duncan. The national program had the option of sending him with the Canadian team to the IRB Gold Coast Sevens, where Olympic qualifying for Rio 2016 opens this weekend. But coaches want to see if he's ready for his World Cup debut next year in XVs.

“Pat Kay has opportunities [both in sevens and XVs] and this is an opportunity for him to show he has the consistency we are looking for in XVs,” said Crowley.

The Americas tournament opens Saturday at Westhills with the U.S. playing Argentina at 2:30 p.m. and Canada meeting Uruguay at 4:30. It continues Oct. 15 with Uruguay-Argentina and Canada-U.S. and concludes Oct. 19 with Uruguay-U.S. and Canada-Argentina.

The full national sides are all in the IRB world top-20 with the Argentina Pumas at No. 10, Canada No. 17, the U.S. Eagles No. 18 and Uruguay No. 20.

“The U.S. is starting to get some good players coming through and Argentina is on the rise with 70 players playing pro in Europe,” noted Crowley.

Tickets are available at City Centre Park in Langford, Spank It Sports on Cloverdale and Tourism Victoria on Wharf Street.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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