The Langford-based Canadian national team began its final-three game preparation stage, ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, with the rugby equivalent of a buzzer-beater loss.
Irish pro powerhouse Leinster scored a try on the last play of the game Saturday to record a 38-35 victory over Canada at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont.
Leinster is one of Ireland’s four provincial professional teams and the most successful in terms of hardware, both domestically and in Europe. Its bigger home games are played at 52,000-seat Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Pat Parfrey, with two tries, was named man of the match for Canada.
The World Cup preparation continues Friday when Canada plays the B.C. All-Stars at Westhills Stadium at 6:30 p.m. in the last chance for Island fans to see Canada off to the World Cup. Tickets are $10 and available before the game at the Eagle Ridge Community Centre or at the Westhills entrance gate on game night. The prep period concludes with a Test match against the U.S. Eagles on Sept. 7 at B.C. Place.
Then it’s across the Pacific for the World Cup opener Sept. 26 against Italy in Fukuoka, followed by pool games against the New Zealand All Blacks on Oct. 2 in Oita, the South Africa Springboks on Oct. 8 in Kobe and versus Namibia on Oct. 13 at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate prefecture, of which Victoria’s sister city Morioka is the capital.
“This next phase is where we really ramp up our preparations for the World Cup. We’ve got a strong group of players that can play several positions at a good level, which bodes well for us,” said Canadian head coach Kingsley Jones, before the Leinster game.
“With this team now, we’ve seen a bit of what they can do. And going up against the likes of Leinster and another showing against USA [after a loss in the recent Pacific Cup] will really test us for what we’re going to face in Japan. We’ve got some tough challenges ahead of us but there’s a good energy in the team and we’ll come at it with everything we’ve got.”
Canada went 0-3 against the U.S., Fiji and Tonga in the recent Pacific Nations Cup.
“The Pacific Nations Cup was our first set of Tests together following a tight training camp in Langford,” said Jones, the Welshman, who resides in Sooke.
“Competing against some tough teams provided us a lot of really good experience and was a great opportunity for the team to get to know each other and start to gel as a unit.”