Canada is one of the rugby minnows to have competed in all five World Cups so far, and will make it six out of six in France this year. This represents a real achievement for a huge country with a low population and adverse climate.
Coach Ric Suggitt is preparing his squad during a cross-Canada tour throughout August, during which he will whittle down the numbers to the final 30. His players boast significant experience, with captain Morgan Williams playing in his third World Cup, as well as verteran lock Mike James playing in his fourth at the age of 34.
Several of Canada’s squad ply their trade overseas, such as James and Jamie Cudmore who play for Stade Francais and Clermont Auvergne respectively – the two sides that reached the final of the French Top 14 competition this year. Stan McKeen and Ed Fairhurst both play for the Cornish Pirates, whilst prop Kevin Tkachuk represents Glasgow Warriors in the Magners League.
Ander Monro and Craig Culpan have been named in the initial squad and have interesting stories. Monro, raised in Scotland, and Culpan, who lives in New Zealand, contacted Suggitt a couple of years ago to request that they be considered for the squad. They were both selected for the Churchill Cup matches, and have now been able to realise their dreams. I can’t imagine Graham Henry listening to a couple of expat Kiwis phoning up to ask to play for the All Blacks.
The Canucks, as they are known, face a tough task in qualifying for the latter stages of the World Cup (as does every minor rugby nation). They share Pool B with Australia, Wales, Fiji and Japan and will open their campaign against the Welsh in Cardiff on 9th September.