Canadian rugby head coach Kieran Crowley will be able to rely on some veteran help next month at the IRB Americas Rugby Championship in Langford, B.C.
The Oct. 11-19 tournament features sides from Canada, Argentina, United States and Uruguay. Sanctioned by the IRB, its goal is to develop domestic-based players in the Americas.
Canada was runner-up at last year’s ARC, defeating Uruguay 28-10 and the U.S. 23-3 before losing to unbeaten Argentina 28-9.
While Crowley has selected some young players, he has also named such veterans as Ray Barkwill, Nick Blevins, Adam Kleeberger, Jamie Mackenzie, Mike Scholz, Andrew Tiedemann, Conor Trainor, Sean White and Doug Wooldridge.
Uruguay, ranked 32st in the world, will be bringing its full national team this year, according to Crowley, with an eye to preparing for its World Cup qualification showdown next year with the 18th-ranked U.S. Eagles.
Like Canada, the U.S., will be using a domestic side at the ARC although Crowley says it looks stronger than the one the Americans fielded last year. Argentina, ranked 10th in the world, will be bringing a developmental side with its top players currently involved in the ongoing Rugby Championship tournament.
The Eagles Select XV includes capped players Shawn Pittman, Phil Tiel, Nick Wallace, Toby L’Estrange and Tito Lamositele.
The Canadian rugby schedule this fall also includes the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia Oct. 12-13 while the 15-man national team hosts the New Zealand Maori in Toronto on Nov. 3 before heading to Europe for tests in Georgia, Romania and Portugal.
The Maori game in Toronto falls outside the IRB’s international window so Crowley will not be able to summon all his overseas pros. But he hopes to have most back for the November tour.
“We’re still dealing with a couple [of clubs], trying to get players released,” he said.
The sevens circuit continues Nov. 29-30 in Dubai and Dec. 7-8 in South Africa.
Crowley is dangling an ARC carrot for his 15-man squad.
“There’s still probably a couple of positions open for the November tour which these guys get a chance to put up their hands for,” he said.
Depth is needed at prop and loose forward among other positions, he added.
The Canadian ARC squad was picked after Crowley and his staff carefully watched this summer’s Canadian Rugby Championship. It features eight members of the B.C. Bears and seven from the champion Ontario Blues, five from the Prairie Wolf Pack and three from The Rock.
Young talent includes Jake Illnicki and Irish-born fullback Jack Fitzpatrick, who played for Canada in the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
“The younger guys get a chance now to play at a higher level and see what it’s like,” said Crowley. “It’s a stepping stone for them.”
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