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Canada defeated the U.S. in their rugby World Cup qualifying series opener in Charleston, S.C., last week, and can finish the job in Toronto today. (MELISSA GREBBINGS/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Canada defeated the U.S. in their rugby World Cup qualifying series opener in Charleston, S.C., last week, and can finish the job in Toronto today. (MELISSA GREBBINGS/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Paul Attfield

Canadian rugby players relive World Cup memories Add to ...

Following last weekend’s 27-9 victory over the United States in Charleston, S.C., the Canadian men’s national rugby team is well-positioned to finish the job in the return fixture in Toronto on Saturday, and maintain its proud record of qualifying for every World Cup.

Avoiding defeat by 18 points or more will give Canada the Americas 1 berth, and place it in Pool D alongside France, Ireland, Italy and another European nation yet to be determined for the 2015 tournament in England.

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In the event Saturday’s game does not go in the home side’s favour, there are other chances for Canada to make it to England, with the loser of the two-match, total points series dropping into another home-and-home series against Uruguay, with the loser of that moving into a repechage tournament.

However, Kieran Crowley’s men will not be looking to squeak into the tournament, they’ll be going after victory – new Rugby Canada director Brian Burke reminded them as much in a brief introduction to the players Friday.

And besides, given Canada’s history in the tournament, no one involved with Canadian men’s rugby is going to want to deprive themselves or their teammates the opportunity to take part in the world’s third-largest sporting event.

Here are recollections of favourite rugby World Cup moments from those currently involved with the men’s team.

Gareth Rees, former national team player and current team manager

“For me, rugby World Cup ’91, when we reached the quarter-final [against New Zealand]. … We played well on the day – I didn’t play particularly well – and we lost, I think, 29-13 to the All Blacks, which is respectable.

“I do remember as well because we were basically amateurs, when we qualified for the World Cup quarter-final, a lot of guys were like, ‘Well, I’ve got to phone work, and see if I can get another week off.’ But it just kind of put it into perspective of just how unprofessional we were in a lot of ways.”

Aaron Carpenter, current Canadian captain

“In New Zealand [in 2011], we were in Napier. … One time, we went fishing out on the boats and one of the boys caught a shark and brought it right up to the edge of [the boat] a five-, six-footer and took some video of it.

“We had to cut it loose, the guy on the boat was like, ‘You’re not bringing that thing on to my ship.’

“Of course, it was [Canadian flanker] Jebb [Sinclair], he wanted to bring it in, pack it up and put it on his mantle, but it was a lot of fun in New Zealand.”

Kieran Crowley, current Canadian coach, winner of the first rugby World Cup in 1987 as a New Zealand All Black

“Can’t remember too much to be honest – it was way back in ’87. But we won.

“Rugby in New Zealand is like ice hockey in Canada, and if Canada don’t win the gold medal at the Olympics it’s classed as a failure.

“It’s the same in New Zealand, and so when you win it over there it’s more relief than excitement about it.”

Jamie Cudmore, current Canadian lock forward

“For me, just being involved in my first World Cup, back in 2003 [in Australia] … playing against the All Blacks, every time you see pockets of Canadians during the anthems and they’re singing along with us a long way from home, that’s very special.”

D.T.H. van der Merwe, current Canadian back

“Obviously, the experience of the 2007 World Cup [in France], which was my first World Cup, but the 2011 World Cup [in New Zealand], which was in a country that’s just so hungry for rugby as a rugby nation, which was just great.

“Some places we went in France, they didn’t even know there was a World Cup going on there.

“But in New Zealand all the fans came out. Even New Zealanders took us on as their second team while we were there and that was really enjoyable.”

Al Charron, former national team player

“For me, playing against the All Blacks is the ultimate, and I was four years removed from playing in high school and turning up and playing against the All Blacks in the World Cup [in 1991].

“For the most part, I’d say the fans in France rallied behind the Canadians.

“And to play against the All Blacks in a match when Canada was two or three years removed from going to New Zealand and losing by 40, 50 points in matches against the provincial teams, and here we are going up against their national team and facing the haka and then running them somewhat close.

“I believe we outscored them in the second half, and I was fortunate enough to score a try near the end of the game and so that was pretty cool.

“And if I remember correctly, it was on the front page of the sports section of The Globe and Mail.”

Follow on Twitter: @paulattfield

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