Submitted by Bryan Kelly
Victoria’s Phil Mack will captain a young Canadian team against a sold-out match tomorrow night against the Maori All Blacks at BC Place.
While World Rugby rankings points are not officially on the line, Friday’s fixture is an exciting chance for the team to test themselves against one of the world’s most recognizable brands of rugby. And, with over 29,000 tickets sold, it will be played in front of largest crowd in Canadian fifteens rugby history.
“I played in the first year of HSBC Canada Sevens at BC Place and the atmosphere was absolutely amazing and we know it’s going to the same tomorrow night,” said Mack.
Friday’s fixture falls outside of the official World Rugby November test match window, making a number of international players unavailable to join the roster
“With injuries and players unavailable due to their professional commitments overseas we’re missing a number of starters, but that gives younger players an opportunity to gain international experience against a quality opposition in the Maori All Blacks,” added Mack.
Following the clash at BC Place, Canada will fly to Europe on Saturday morning to face Georgia (Tbilisi), Spain (Madrid) and Fiji (Narbonne, France) on the 11th, 18th and 25th respectively.
“We’ve had a great week of training with (new coach) Kingsley and we’re excited to get our November series underway to prepare for the (Rugby) World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay in the New Year,” added Mack.
Led by captain Mack at scrumhalf, Canada’s roster mixes a blend of experienced internationals – Ray Barkwill, Hubert Buydens, and Tyler Ardron – with players making their debut for Canada’s Senior Men’s Team, including Dustin Dobravsky and Josh Larsen.
Five members of the starting team – Buydens, Barkwill, Dobravsky, Pat Parfrey & Guiseppe du Toit – recently took part in the Americas Pacific Challenge in Uruguay for Canada ‘A’.
Names unavailable due to injury or other commitments include: Matt Evans, Conor Trainor, Connor Braid, Admir Cejvanovic, Conor Desmond, Cole Keith, Gordon McRorie, Nickalas Blevins, Taylor Paris, Shane O’Leary and Jeff Hassler.
Upon arrival in Tbilisi, Canada’s roster could potentially be bolstered by the return of overseas professionals, including: Ciaran Hearn, Aaron Carpenter, DTH van der Merwe, Jake Ilnicki and Brett Beukeboom.
For the Maori All Blacks, eight new caps have announced in the starting 23, with Manawatu’s Jackson Hemopo starting at lock, and Shaun Stevenson, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Sam Henwood, Jordan Manihera, Tyrel Lomax, Ross Wright and Liam Polwart to debut off the bench.
Head Coach Clayton McMillan said (via NZ Rugby press release) they had high expectations of a good performance on a quick track at BC Place, the venue for the Friday night fixture.
“We’re pretty happy with how things are ticking along, we’ve had some good training.
“Everyone who is here deserves their opportunity to represent the Maori All Blacks and while they may be lacking for a bit of experience at this level, they certainly make up for it in enthusiasm, and I am really happy with the way the team has bonded.
“We don’t see it as a starting 15 and eight off the bench – it’s a full squad of 27 with everyone including those boys not playing, working to help us prepare,” he said.
Sports fans who want to get in on the festivities but are not able to purchase a ticket to the game are invited to attend the traditional Rugby style Long Lunch in advance of the match, set to take place on game day, Friday, November 3rd, from 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM at The Shark Club on West Georgia Street.
This one-of-a-kind event will be hosted by Canada’s Sports & World Rugby Hall of Famer, Gareth Rees, with guest speaker, the legendary former New Zealand All Blacks Captain Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford. For tickets, visit events.rugbycanada.ca
Be a part of the unique experience that is Rugby at BC Place! To purchase tickets to the match against Uruguay, visit www.ticketmaster.ca and for more information on suites to the match, visit events.rugbycanada.ca
Kick off on Friday night at BC Place is set for 7pm PT (10pm ET), with gates opening to the public at 6pm PT. The game will be broadcast live on TSN, Rugby Canada’s official broadcast partner.