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Langford-based Canada jumps two spots in world rugby rankings with win over Brazil

Captain Lucas Rumball runs in a hat-trick of tries
Canada’s Lucas Rumball, left, tackles U.S. wing Christian Dyer during the first half of a Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification pathway match Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Glendale, Colo. Rumball scored three tries Saturday as Canada defeated Brazil 40-15 to finish third at the four-team La Vila International Rugby Cup. DAVID ZALUBOWSKI, AP

It was the result the Langford-based Canadian men’s rugby team simply had to have. The upcoming winter of training at Starlight Stadium will feel a lot better because of Canada’s 40-15 victory over Brazil on Saturday in Spain in the bronze-medal match of the La Vila International Cup. Canada broke open what was a 14-10 game at the half at El Pantano Stadium in Villajoyosa.

Anything less against the No. 26 Brazilians would have been dangerously precipitous as Canada went into the game ranked No. 23 and had already fallen behind the likes of No. 17 Uruguay and No. 22 Chile in the hemispheric hierarchy. Remember, this isn’t the soccer pitch, but the rugby pitch.

The win over Brazil allowed Canada to climb two spots to No. 21 in the world rankings. A loss would have meant dropping three spots to No. 26.

The 42-20 loss to No. 19 Spain last weekend in the La Vila International Cup semifinals was another wake-up call as Canada has also dipped below the likes of Spain and No. 13 Portugal. “We are really disappointed,” Canadian head coach Kingsley Jones, of Sooke, said after the Spain loss.

His charges responded well against Brazil as veteran and captain Lucas Rumball scored a hat-trick of tries.

“It wasn’t a perfect start, but what I was proud of is our ability to rebound,” Rumball said in a statement. “Rugby is a game of 80 minutes of back and forth and possession and power, and it shifts. You have to have the ability to ride that wave and come back at it when you get the opportunities. I thought our boys did really well at responding.”

Canadian inside-centre Ben LeSage said: “Last week we were really disappointed. We took a long look in the mirror.”

Collective looks in the mirror over the long term will be important, too. It was only two decades ago that Canada was a reliable top-15 nation in the second tier with only first-tier world power Argentina ahead of it in the hemisphere. But so much has changed. The 2023 World Cup in France was riveting. But for the first time since its inception in 1987, Canada wasn’t a part of the showcase, failing to qualify after nine consecutive appearances. The world has a way of passing you by if you do not guard your standing.

The development programs at Starlight Stadium, such as the Under-23 Pacific Pride team, will be key in rebuilding and qualifying for the 2027 World Cup in Australia and 2031 World Cup in the United States.

Already the impacts are being felt as Pacific Pride players Matthew Oworu and Mason Flesch started for Canada on Saturday against Brazil. Coming off the bench was another youngster Gabe Casey, from the University of Victoria Vikes.

Jones is also looking for mid-20s players such as Foster Dewitt of Courtenay, who plays pro in MLR with the New England Free Jacks, to step in during the process as the Westshore RFC prop earned his second cap.

“Importantly, the group got the feeling of how to build the game and build pressure on the scoreboard,” Jones said in a statement. “Players talk about Canadian grit, and the most pleasing thing for me was that when we were in the lead with a couple of minutes left, we kept Brazil out with a great defensive set. Learning how to win, that’s one of the biggest things to take away from this. Understanding why we put ourselves in certain positions, like at the start, and how when we play the right way we’re able to build momentum and take control of the game.”

Canada must also build momentum and take control of its longer-term destiny. Saturday may have been a building block with the two-spot jump up the world rankings.

The No. 18 U.S. Eagles defeated host Spain 42-12 in the La Vila International Cup championship game Saturday.

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