MARSEIILE, France — Veteran scrum half Phil Mack will lead out Canada against Kenya on Sunday in the opening game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup repechage tournament.
Coach Kingsley Jones has selected a starting 15 that features 11 players with World Cup experience. Four more on the bench have also played in the World Cup.
The Canadian men warmed up for the last-chance qualifier with a pair of wins over English club sides.
“We have had an good 12 days on the ground in Europe, including our fixtures against Oxford (University) and Coventry, with a wider group of players, which has allowed us to continue to grow depth and momentum leading into this weekend’s game against Kenya,” Jones said in a statement.
“We have been able to have competition for a number of positions which is vital,” he added. “With three games in 18 days depth in each position could prove to be critical.”
Canada is currently ranked 23rd in the world, compared to No. 28 for Kenya. Also bidding for the 20th and last berth in the 2019 Rugby World Cup are No. 21 Hong Kong and No. 29 Germany, who also meet Sunday.
The round-robin winner will slot into Group B in Japan alongside top-ranked New Zealand, No. 5 Australia, No. 14 Italy and No. 22 Namibia.
Canada dropped into the repechage after losing qualifying series against the 15th-ranked U.S. Eagles and No. 18 Uruguay. Kenya qualified for the repechage by finishing second at the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup.
Canada has participated in all eight previous Rugby World Cups, all at the first qualifying attempt.
Canada and Kenya have never met on the rugby field before.
“We’re expecting a big, strong and confident Kenyan side, Kenya are a team that have the ability to score from any situation,” said Jones, a former Wales captain. “If you switch off mentally they are the sort of side that can score 21 points in five minutes.
“We need to be at our best for the whole 80 minutes come Sunday.”
Hubert Buydens, NOLA Gold (Major League Rugby), Saskatoon; Ray Barkwill, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Niagara Falls, Ont.; Jake Ilnicki, Yorkshire Carnegie (England), Williams Lake, B.C.; Brett Beukeboom, Cornish Pirates (England), Lindsay, Ont.; Evan Olmstead, Auckland (New Zealand), Vancouver; Kyle Baillie, Westshore RFC, Summerside, P.E.I.; Matt Heaton, Darlington Mowden Park (England), Godmanchester, Que.; Tyler Ardron, Chiefs (New Zealand), Lakefield, Ont.; Phil Mack (capt.), Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Victoria; Gordon McRorie, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; DTH van der Merwe, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland), Victoria; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Ben LeSage, UBC Thunderbirds, Calgary; Matt Evans, Cornish Pirates (England), Maple Bay, B.C.; Theo Sauder, UBC Thunderbirds, Vancouver.
Eric Howard, NOLA Gold (MLR), Ottawa; Djustice Sears-Duru, unattached, Oakville, Ont.; Matt Tierney, Pau (France), Oakville, Ont.; Mike Sheppard, Stoney Creek Camels, Brampton, Ont.; Lucas Rumball, Balmy Beach RFC, Mississauga, Ont.; Jamie Mackenzie, Balmy Beach, Oakville, Ont; Ciaran Hearn, London Irish (England), Conception Bay South, N.L.; Conor Trainor, USON Nevers (France), Vancouver.
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The Canadian Press