Captain Tyler Ardron, who plays in New Zealand for Super Rugby’s Chiefs, leads Canada’s 43-man long list for the Pacific Nations Cup.
The 21st-ranked Canadians open July 27 against the 15th-ranked Americans in Glendale, Colo., before heading to Fiji to face the ninth-ranked host country on Aug. 2 in Suva and No. 13 Tonga on Aug. 8 in Lautoka.
The six-country tournament also features No. 11 Japan and No. 16 Samoa. All six teams will take part in the Rugby World Cup that kicks off Sept. 20 in Japan.
Other veterans on the expanded roster include vice-captain Phil Mack, DTH van der Merwe, Hubert Buydens, Ciaran Hearn, Jeff Hassler, Jake Ilnicki, Evan Olmstead and Conor Trainor.
“A great opportunity for guys to cement their place in the Rugby World Cup [team] … but also an opportunity for guys to put their hand up and tell me that they’re the right man to be taken,” Canada coach Kingsley Jones said.
The roster includes 26-year-old newcomer Peter Nelson, a former Ireland under-20 fly half/fullback who qualifies for Canada via a Canadian grandmother.
“He’s decided to make himself available for Canada in the future and that’s fantastic news for us,” Jones said. “A seasoned pro.”
Nelson made 60 appearances for Ulster before leaving after eight season with the provincial club. He was sidelined for 14 months on the sidelines after a foot injury in December, 2015.
The long list does not include injured players or those currently tied up by under-20 or sevens commitments.
Canada has qualified for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2019, rugby’s second-tier under-20 tournament, in Brazil next month. The Canadian men’s seven squad is focused on the Rugby Americas North Sevens 2020 Olympic Qualifier on July 6 to 7 in the Cayman Islands.
Rugby Canada says such players remain in consideration for Canada’s final Rugby World Cup squad.
Young fullback Theo Sauder is one of those injured, with Jones hoping he will be back in time for the tournament.
The list has 26 players from Major League Rugby, including 13 from the Toronto Arrows and six from the champion Seattle Seawolves.
Canada has also scheduled pre-World Cup games against Ireland’s Leinster, on Aug. 24 in Hamilton, and the United States on Sept. 7 at B.C. Place in Vancouver.
The Canadian men will face No. 1 New Zealand, No. 5 South Africa, No. 14 Italy and No. 22 Namibia at the World Cup.