International men’s fifteens rugby returns to Vancouver this Saturday, as Canada faces Japan in the first-ever Test match to be held at BC Place. Kickoff on June 11th is at 3:00pm PDT.
On Monday, Rugby Canada’s announced the 28-man squad being considered for selection for the Japan game, in addition to upcoming Tests in Alberta against Russia and against Italy in Ontario.
A quartet of prominent BC Rugby players who have gone on to star for professional rugby clubs abroad have been brought in to bolster the Canada lineup, led by four-time Rugby World Cup veteran Jamie Cudmore from Squamish, BC. Cudmore recently concluded a storied playing career for Clermont Auvergne in France’s Top 14, where he became a fan favorite for his strength and toughness on the field.
Joining Cudmore in the potential forward pack assignments are Vernon’s Cam Pierce and Williams Lake’s Jake Ilnicki. Pierce has seen his personal stock rising along with his club Section Paloise, who were promoted from France’s second division (D2) to that country’s leading competition (Top 14) to begin the 2015-16 season. Ilnicki, meanwhile, was a late addition to Rugby Canada’s Team at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, helping him to earn a professional contract with San Diego of the Pro Rugby USA competition. Maple Bay’s Matt Evans, who plays wing for English side Cornish Pirates, rounds out the compliment of BC professionals based abroad. All four men have donned the BC provincial kit in past seasons and will be eagerly anticipating a potential homecoming game as they await Coach Mark Anscombe’s final Team selection.
Also up for selection is Vancouver’s Brock Staller. The most recent star to emerge from the BC Bears’ provincial program, the powerfully built back was instrumental in helping his club, the UBC Thunderbirds, repeat as Rounsefell Cup champions in the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League in 2016. Staller has typically patrolled the wings or centers for UBC, but his range with the boot saw him start at fullback for Canada in 2016 test matches against Uruguay and Chile.
Capilano Rugby Club alumni Evan Olmstead, who has roots in North Vancouver but plies his trade with Newscastle Falcons during the winter and the Prairie Wolf Pack during the summer, is also in the mix for selection.
The 28-man squad equally features a number of notable names with past or current connections to BC Rugby clubs, including Ray Barkwill, Nick Blevins, Hubert Buydens, Jamie Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie, Djustice-Sears Duru, Ben LeSage and Jordan Wilson-Ross.
“The boys have come together really well,” Anscombe said. “We’ve worked them hard but they’ve put a lot into it and the attitude has been outstanding.”
“We’ve been trying to find out about everyone the last few days and now we know what we’re faced with. We can now start moving forward and developing the group as a unit.”
The game against 10th ranked Japan will add another chapter to Canadian rugby history by being the first ever test match held at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C. Earlier this year, the world-class stadium held the inaugural HSBC Canada Men’s Sevens, where more than 60,000 fans packed in over two days to set a new Canadian rugby attendance record.
Japan shook up the rugby establishment at the 2015 Rugby World Cup by defeating South Africa, before riding the momentum to wins over Samoa and the USA.
Canada came up short in its last home Test against Japan in 2014 and will face a tough battle against the upstart Japanese side this Saturday.
“We’ve had a few weeks of preparation and have started developing some things and now the next level of excitement is getting to that first game and we’re looking forward to it,” Anscombe said. “The challenge is there in front of us to play well in front of a home crowd.”
Canada versus Japan will be broadcast LIVE on Rugby Canada’s official provider TSN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by clicking here.
Canada’s Senior Men’s Squad (Name, club, hometown):
Jamie Cudmore – (Oyonnax) Squamish, BC
Jake Ilnicki – (San Diego/BC Bears) Williams Lake, BC
Cam Pierce – (Section Paloise/Kelowna Crows) Vernon, BC
Brock Staller – (UBC Thunderbirds/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Matt Evans – (Cornish Pirates) Maple Bay, BC
Evan Olmstead – (Newcastle Falcons/Prairie Wolf Pack) Vancouver, BC
Kyle Baillie – (Ohio/Atlantic Rock) Summerside, PEI
Ray Barkwill – (Sacramento/Ontario Blues) Niagara Falls, ON
Nick Blevins – (San Francisco/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Hubert Buydens – (San Diego/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Aaron Carpenter – (Cornish Pirates/Ontario Blues) Brantford, ON
Paul Ciulini – (Aurora Barbarians/Ontario Blues) Vaughan, ON
Alistair Clark – (Bay Street Pigs/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Tom Dolezel – (London St. George’s/Ontario Blues) London, ON
Andrew Ferguson – (Oakville Crusaders/Ontario Blues) Mississauga, ON
Matt Heaton – (Darlington Mowden Park/Atlantic Rock) Godmanchester, QC
Eric Howard – (Brantford Harlequins/Ontario Blues) Ottawa, ON
Ben LeSage – (UBC Thunderbirds/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Jamie Mackenzie – (UBCOB Ravens/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Gordon McRorie – (Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Dan Moor – (Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Pat Parfrey – (Swilers RFC/Atlantic Rock) St. John’s, NL
Taylor Paris – (Agen) Barrie, ON
Lucas Rumball – (Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues) Scarborough, ON
Mozac Samson – (Calgary Saints/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Djustice Sears -Duru – (Glasgow Warriors/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Matt Tierney – (Section Paloise/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
Jordan Wilson-Ross – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Alliston, ON
Unavailable for selection:
Callum Morrison – (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Jason Marshall – (Agen/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
DTH van der Merwe – (Scarlets) Victoria, BC
Tyler Ardron – (Ospreys) Lakefield, ON
Brett Beukeboom – (Cornish Pirates) Lindsay, ON
Gradyn Bowd – (UVIC Vikes/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
Kyle Gilmour – (St. Albert RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack) St. Albert, AB
Jeff Hassler – (Ospreys) Okotoks, AB
Phil Mackenzie – (San Diego/Ontario Blues), Oakville, ON
Benoit Piffero – (Avenir Castaneén Rugby XV/Atlantic Rock) Montreal, QC
Jebb Sinclair – (London Irish/Atlantic Rock) Fredericton, NB
Andrew Tiedemann – (Bourgoin/Prairie Wolf Pack) St. Albert, AB
Doug Wooldridge – (Lindsay RFC/Ontario Blues) Lindsay, ON
Unavailable due to Rugby Sevens Olympic Repechage:
Nathan Hirayama – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
Phil Mack – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Conor Trainor – (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Liam Underwood – (Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
John Moonlight – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
Nanyak Dala – (Castaway Wanderers/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Ciaran Hearn – (London Irish/Atlantic Rock) Conception Bay South, NL
Canada’s Senior Men’s Coaching Staff:
Head Coach – Mark Anscombe
Assistant Coach – Graeme Moffat
Assistant Coach, Forwards – Michael Shelley
Technical Consultant (Auckland Blues) – Paul Feeney
Head Strength & Conditioning – Michael Deasy
Analyst – Aaron Takel
Physiotherapist – Mallory White
Athletic Therapist – Jessica Smith
Tour Manager – Jim Kazakoff
Operations & Logistics Manager – Alana Gattinger