With the 2015 Rugby World Cup now just days away, we take a closer look at each of the competing nations. Next up…
World Cup track record:
Canada have featured in every single Rugby World Cup so far, making the knockout stages on one occasion back in 1991. Otherwise they have always exited the tournament in the pool stages, with only one victory to their name on each occasion apart from in 2007 when they failed to secure a victory. In that 1991 quarter-final they were defeated by New Zealand 29-13 in Lille.
1987: Pool stages
1995: Pool stages
1999: Pool stages
2003: Pool stages
2007: Pool stages
2011: Pool stages
2011 World Cup: Canada were grouped in Pool A alongside hosts and future champions New Zealand plus the other eventual World Cup finalist, France. Getting out of the group therefore was always going to be a monumental challenge but Canada opened their account with a 25-20 win over Tonga. They were then defeated 46-19 by France and 79-15 by New Zealand, while drawing 23-23 with Japan to ultimately finish in fourth place.
World Cup Stats: P25, W7, D2, L16
– Most RWC appearances: Rod Snow (14)
– Most appearances: Al Charron (76)
– Top RWC points scorer: Gareth Rees (120)
– Top points scorer: James Pritchard (597)
– Top RWC try scorers: Al Charron, Morgan Williams (4)
– Top try scorer: Winston Stanley (29)
Form: It’s been a miserable run for Canada heading into the World Cup, losing seven Tests in a row including every game of the Pacific Nations Cup. Their only Test win in the last two years was a narrow success over Namibia in 2014, but they came desperately close to beating both the USA and Samoa in the PNC.
Coach: Kieran Crowley was born and raised in Taranaki in New Zealand and played in two Rugby World Cups for the All Blacks in 1987 and 1991. With Taranaki he became the side’s all-time leading points scorer and made over 200 appearances in a long 14-year career as a full-back, having made his debut as an 18-year-old before retiring in 1994. That experience stood him in good stead when he moved into coaching, starting out at Taranaki where he was based from 1998 to 2007. During that time Crowley also acted as a selector for the All Blacks and coached the New Zealand U19 side to a junior title in 2007. That success caught the eye of Canada and Crowley has been in place since 2008, coaching the side at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in his home country, New Zealand. Crowley will be looking to improve on Canada’s single win four years on in England.
Captain: Tyler Ardron made his debut in 2012 and his impressive rise in the game led to him being named captain ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The 24-year-old is relatively young compared to other international captains but his versatility to play in the back row or second row make him a valuable weapon for the Canucks. Ardron was signed by the Ospreys in 2012 and his impressive leadership qualities resulted in the Welsh region offering him a new three-year contract in 2014. Ardron was also named as the Ospreys player’s player of the year at the end of the 2014/2015 season, learning his trade alongside Wales star Alun Wyn Jones in the second row. He looks set to be a major player for Canada as the side continue to develop their game on the international stage, starting at the Rugby World Cup later on this year in England.
Players to watch: Canada will look for solidity in the pack from the likes of Jamie Cudmore and Brett Beukeboom while Ardron has developed into an outstanding back-row forward over the past two campaigns. Club and country-mate Jeff Hassler is also someone who Canada will hope transfers his regional form to the international arena as another off the Sevens conveyer-belt. The wing is a dynamic carrier who will hope to flourish at the World Cup alongside DTH van der Merwe while another key man and sharp-shooter off the tee is scrum-half Gordon McRorie, who keeps cool under pressure.
Profile: Canada maintained a proud record of having reached the finals of every Rugby World Cup when they qualified for this year's tournament after a home and away play-off against the USA back in 2013. The 40-20 aggregate score which saw Canada win both home and away, ensured Kieran Crowley's side would feature in the World Cup, with USA later joining them in the 2015 event after beating Uruguay NACRA-CONSUR play-off final.
Plenty of Canada's team boast experience from past World Cups but none have progressed out of the pool stage, with the squad having managed to achieve that feat just once in 1991. Their 2011 effort began on a real high as they beat Tonga 25-20 but then a loss to France was followed up by an agonising 23-23 draw with Japan before they came off second best to eventual World Cup champions New Zealand, who ran out 79-15 winners.
Like in 2011, several of Canada's squad play their rugby in Europe but there is still a healthy bunch of local talent in the form of veterans Hubert Buydens and Ray Barkwill up front along with Sevens stalwarts Phil Mack, Nathan Hirayama, Connor Braid, Ciaran Hearn and Conor Trainor.
Canada will look to keep their game simple up front but then bring in their deadly wings as much as possible when the backs are in possession, with Braid and Hearn's distribution key to that.
There is little doubt however that their group in 2015 is much tougher than four years ago, with opening pool games against Ireland, Italy and France unlikely to result in wins before they likely round off their campaign looking for a morale-boosting victory over Romania in Leicester.
Prospects in 2015: With that tough group and a slight dip in form in 2015, pulling off any big shocks feels beyond Canada at this stage despite the potential of players like Ardron and Van der Merwe. Beating Romania will be their main target.
19 Sep – 14:30: v Ireland, Cardiff
26 Sep – 14:30: v Italy, Leeds
1 Oct – 20:00 v France, Milton Keynes
6 Oct – 16:45 v Romania, Leicester