The ground couldn’t be more hallowed on which to make a rugby debut. Quinn Ngawati of Victoria will earn the first of what should be many caps as Canada takes on traditional power Wales in a Test at Principality (formerly Millennium) Stadium, the former site of historic Cardiff Arms Park.
Ngawati is among seven uncapped players who will dress in their senior international debuts (7 a.m. PT streaming on DAZN) in a most unforgettable way today for the Langford-based Canadian national team.
The others are Donald Carson, Ross Braude, Michael Smith, Cooper Coats, Tyler Rowland and Siaki Vikilani.
Ngawati, the former Howard Russell Cup-winning captain of the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags, will start among the backs along with Braude and Coats with Burnaby’s Vikilani among the forwards. Ngawati, with deep roots in rugby on his Kiwi paternal side, is returning to union after a foray in the pro league code of the sport.
Josh Larsen of Nanaimo, another Islander with strong Kiwi family connections, and University of Victoria Vikes and Castaways Wanderers product Jake Ilnicki also got the call to start among the forwards with Djustice Sears-Duru, Andrew Quattrin, Conor Keys, Reegan O’Gorman and Lucas Rumball.
Joining the three debutantes among the backs will be Peter Nelson, Kainoa Lloyd, Ben Lesage and Cole Davis.
Carson, Rowland and Smith will dress in reserve and be available off the bench with Eric Howard, Cole Keith, Lucas Albornoz, Robbie Povey and Will Percillier of Victoria from pro club Stade Francais.
Canada will also play England at another legendary rugby venue, Twickenham, next week. A roster of 32 has been assembled by Canadian head coach Kinglsey Jones in Bristol, England, which will be home base between the two Tests.
Islanders in Bristol are Ngawati, Larsen, Ilnicki, Percillier, Doug Fraser of Ladysmith and debutantes Isaac Olsen and Lachlan Kratz of Victoria and Foster Dewitt of Courtenay.
There are 11 uncapped players in total. No players from the Langford-based Canadian sevens team were picked because they are preparing for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
“We are very excited to assemble for the first time since our high-performance camp last November,” said Jones, before leaving the Island for Bristol.
“It’s been a massive undertaking in co-ordinating the logistics of assembling these players in a COVID world, but we feel privileged and humbled to have the opportunity to play these critical World Cup qualification preparation matches.”
Regional qualifying for the 2023 World Cup in France begins in the fall with Canada playing home games against the U.S. on Sept. 4 in St. John’s and against South American No. 1 or No. 2 on Oct. 2 at Starlight Stadium in Langford.
The Canadian Tests against world No. 6 Wales and No. 3 England are in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers and will be the first games for Canada since the 2019 World Cup in Japan.