Parksville’s Larsen latest addition to Canada's Rugby World Cup squad

It’s not the way any player wants to get on the roster to represent his nation in the World Cup.

But it’s hurry up and wait — you have to be ready if called.

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Six-foot-five, 235-pound lock Josh Larsen of Parksville is just that. The Islander has been called up and will slot into the second row for Langford-based Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after Justin Blanchet of Montreal went down with a concussion in the final tune-up, a 20-15 loss to the U.S., last Friday at B.C. Place. Blanchet had really been coming on and was named man of the match in Canada’s 45-13 victory Aug. 30 over the B.C. All-Stars at Westhills Stadium.

“I am gutted for my mate, but am ecstatic about the opportunity,” said Larsen, in a statement issued by Rugby Canada.

The Island native and New England Free Jacks pro in Major League Rugby, who has also played pro for Otago and Northland in his father’s native New Zealand, was part of the training group at Westhills Stadium leading to the World Cup and will slide into the roster comfortably. Larsen was born in Nanaimo and raised mostly in New Zealand, and has 12 caps for Canada.

Larsen will likely be called upon in the World Cup, especially with another second-row player, Kyle Baillie, injuring his knee against the U.S. and likely out for the first two games of the World Cup.

Larsen played all three games when Canada beat Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong to claim the 20th and final berth into the 2019 World Cup in the last-chance qualifier last November in Marseille. Canada has gone 1-7 in Test matches since then, with that lone win a 56-0 result against Chile in February at Westhills Stadium.

With the addition of Larsen and deletion of Blanchet, and the decision to keep Baillie on, the Canadian roster remains at the maximum allowable 31 players for the World Cup.

Tyler Ardron of Peterborough, Ont., will reprise his 2015 World Cup role and wear the captain’s armband again. Glasgow Warriors pro and all-time Canadian tries leader DTH van der Merwe of Victoria is headed to his fourth World Cup. The roster also features former Castaway Wanders stars Hubert Buydens, Ciaran Hearn and Jake Ilnicki and University of Victoria Vikes alumnus Jamie Mackenzie.

The venerable 33-year-old scrum-half Phil Mack, whose wife just had a child, returns to the World Cup for Canada while fellow-Victorian Luke Campbell, son of 1984 Olympic silver-medallist rower Marilyn Campbell, will make his World Cup debut. Also of note on the Canadian roster are Eric Howard, Matthew Tierney, Evan Olmstead, Kyle Baillie, Lucas Rumball, Gordon McRorie, Peter Nelson, Ben LeSage, Jeff Hassler, Pat Parfrey, Andrew Quattrin, Djustice Sears-Duru, Mike Sheppard, Shane O’Leary and Nick Blevins.

The Canadian team flew to Japan this week.

The No. 22-ranked Canadians open the World Cup on Sept. 26 in Fukuoka against No. 14 Italy. Then come two formidable pool matches against the No. 2-ranked New Zealand All Blacks on Oct. 2 at Oita and the No. 4 South Africa Springboks on Oct. 8 at Kobe. Canada’s final Pool B match is against No. 23 Namibia on Oct. 13 at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on Oct. 13 in Iwate prefecture, of which Victoria’s sister city Morioka is the capital.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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