Canada’s rugby future on right track

The immediacy in Langford for Canadian rugby is the preparation for the 2019 World Cup this fall in Japan.

But the gears already need to be in motion for what happens after that on the road to the 2023 and 2027. Fifteen of the Canadian players selected last week for the exhibition lead-up games to the 2019 World Cup also played in the 2015 World Cup and are due to retire from the national team after Japan, including overseas pro DTH van der Merwe and MLR pro standout Phil Mack, both of Victoria.

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Players such as Victoria’s Luke Campbell are making their way into the mix, but it’s nothing like the influx of new faces that will be needed post-2019.

That’s why the rebooted Pacific Pride program, essentially the Canadian U-23 team based at Westhills Stadium, was announced this summer. It will be abetted by Canada’s fifth-place performance over the weekend in the U-20 World Trophy tournament in Brazil. It wasn’t enough to get Canada to the top-tier U-20 World Cup tournament but was a start at building something.

“There is little doubt we have improved this year as a result of our better preparation, but we need to learn how to win close games,” said U-20 Canada head coach Jeff Williams of Mill Bay, in a statement.

He was referring to the pivotal 26-25 opening loss to Tonga. That was followed by a 49-21 loss to Portugal and 78-26 and 52-13 victories over Hong Kong and Kenya.

“The challenge for us is to get our players more experience at the test match level,” said Williams.

“Our three-year plan is that players will get six international games at U-18, followed by promotion to the U-20 squad, where they will get an additional six games prior to the qualifiers for the [next] World Trophy. In addition, we will try to do a better job finding the best players in the country. The fact that 13 of the 26 players are under-age, and will be back next year, provides optimism.”

Will Percillier continued to emerge as Canada’s potential scrum-half of the future with 32 and 19 points, respectively, in the victories over Hong Kong and Kenya. The young player has already been capped with the Canadian senior national team and has signed a pro contract with big-name European club Stade Francais. Pecillier is a native of France but is also Canadian on his mother’s side. The family has also lived in Hong Kong and Singapore. Percillier was a star in high school at Brentwood College in Mill Bay.

Another Island secondary school graduate to watch on Canada U-20 is former St. Michaels University School captain and B.C. high school champion Quinn Ngawati, who began his career as a pro in rugby league by signing with the Toronto Wolfpack, before now making a return to rugby union.

Williams has cited Percillier and Ngawati for their “confidence and joy for the game and enthusiasm and leadership.”

Canadian fullback Avery Oitoman is also already a pro with the Toronto Arrows of MLR.

Nick Carson, 2018-19 University of Victoria Vikes rookie athlete of the year, scored two tries in the final game against Kenya and the No. 8 was cited as Canada’s most consistent player in the tournament. Nick’s cousins, Frank and David Carson from the UBC Thunderbirds, and Jack Carson of Castaway Wanderers were also on the Canadian team.

Also on the Canadian roster are Lachlan Kratz, Gabriel Casey and Jarvis Dashkewytch of the UVic Vikes, Reid Davis, J.T. Boehme and Mason Flesch of James Bay Athletic Association and Thomas Isherwood of Westshore RFC.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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