fter a disappointing last-ditch loss in Uruguay last week, Canada coach Kingsley Jones chose to think of the positives ahead of Saturday’s Americas Rugby Championship test against Brazil.
The Canadians showed some real flair in the backline in the 20-17 defeat in Montevideo.
Ciaran Hearn finished off a flowing move by the backs to touch down in the corner before fullback Theo Sauder scored on a beautiful solo run that saw him get the ball just outside the 22-metre line and beat five Uruguayan defenders.
“An incredible try,” said Jones.
Scrum half Jamie Mackenzie scored the third Canadian try, darting over from a Canadian ruck near the goal-line.
“Lots of positives, lots of pleasing (play),” Jones said in an interview. “You can always tell when you struggle to pick man of the match. There were half-a-dozen guys who could have had man of the match for us.”
He singled out Mackenzie, Sauder, fly half Pat Parfrey, No. 8 Luke Campbell and captain/flanker Lucas Rumball as among Canada’s top performers.
Five Canadians played a part in the Hearn try, with winger Kainoa Lloyd slashing through the Uruguay defence after the South Americans kicked the ball away.
Hearn is set to win his 65th cap Saturday, moving past Scott Stewart to take over fourth spot in national team appearances. The 33-year-old centre, who won his first cap against Ireland in 2008, trails only Winston Stanley (66 caps), Al Charron (76) and Aaron Carpenter (80) on the all-time list.
Jones has named an unchanged starting team for the game in Sao Paulo. Rumball continues as skipper, earning his 27th cap — and fourth as captain.
The lone change in the matchday 23 is on the bench, where forward Justin Blanchet replaces Mike Sheppard. Blanchet will win his first cap if he sees action. Scrum half Will Percillier, a replacement against Uruguay last week, did not come on but could also make his debut Saturday.
Winger Andrew Coe survived an ugly tackle that saw Uruguay scrum half Santiago Arata sent off in the 16th minute after driving Coe head-first into the ground in touch.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Jones. “He continued and did really well.”
Brazil, ranked 28th in the world compared to No. 20 for Canada, was thumped 54-3 last weekend by Argentina XV (Argentina is fielding a reserve side in the tournament).
Jones is not reading much into that result, knowing Brazil is far better at home than on the road.
“I think it will be a different game this week. I expect a tough challenge,” he said.
Canada is 2-1-0 against Brazil with all three fixtures part of the ARC dating back to 2016. Brazil’s lone victory came in 2017 at Estadio do Pacaembu by a score of 24-23.
“Hopefully we’re in a better place than that. I believe we are,” said Jones, a former Wales captain. “But it’s going to be a tough test match away from home again.”
Jones is missing many of his overseas pros — and some top domestic talent — who helped secure World Cup qualification with wins over Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong at a November repechage in France.
Those missing include Tyler Ardron, Ray Barkwill, Brett Beukeboom, Hubert Buydens, Matt Evans, Jake Ilnicki, Phil Mack, Gord McRorie, Shane O’Leary, Evan Olmstead, Taylor Paris, Conor Trainor and DTH van der Merwe.
After Saturday’s game, the focus switches to Langford, B.C., where Canada will host No. 29 Chile on Feb. 22 and Argentina XV on March 1.
The Canadian men wrap up play March 8 in Seattle against the defending champion Americans, ranked 12th in the world.
Djustice Sears-Duru, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Oakville, Ont.; Eric Howard, NOLA Gold (MLR), Ottawa; Matt Tierney, Pau (France), Oakville, Ont.; Conor Keys, Rotherham Titans (England), Stittsville, Ont.; Josh Larsen, Austin Elite (MLR), Parskville, B.C.; Kyle Baillie, NOLA Gold (MLR), Summerside, P.E.I.; Lucas Rumball (capt.), Toronto Arrows (MLR), Mississauga, Ont.; Luke Campbell, James Bay AA), Victoria; Jamie Mackenzie, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Oakville, Ont,; Pat Parfrey, unattached, St. John’s, N.L.; Kainoa Lloyd, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Mississauga, Ont.; Ciaran Hearn, London Irish (England) Conception Bay South, N.L.; Ben LeSage, UBC Thunderbirds, Vancouver; Andrew Coe, Markham Irish, Toronto; Theo Sauder, Toronto Arrows, Vancouver.
Noah Barker, Utah Warriors (MLR), Courtenay, B.C.; Ryan Kotlewski, Westshore RFC, Calgary; Cole Keith, Toronto Arrows (MLR), Sussex, N.B.; Justin Blanchet, Bedford Blues (England), Montreal; Dustin Dobravsky, Castaway Wanderers, Hanover, Germany; Nakai Penny, Seattle Seawolves (MLR), Penticton, B.C.; Will Percillier, Stade Francais (France), Mill Bay, B.C.; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary.