April 22nd, 2024

Canada men’s rugby coach Kingsley Jones looks forward to busy 2024 fixture list

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on February 27, 2024.

Canadian men's rugby coach Kingsley Jones looks on during the team's warm up before the first match of the Rugby World Cup 2023 Qualification Pathway, at the Swilers Rugby Club in St. John's, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The team could play as many as nine test matches this year, starting in July with games against sixth-ranked Scotland and No. 20 Romania in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

The Canadian men’s rugby team could play as many as nine test matches this year, starting in July with games against sixth-ranked Scotland and No. 20 Romania in Ottawa.

The 21st-ranked Canadian men will also host No. 12 Japan in Vancouver on Aug 25.

The busy fixture list is welcome news for Canada coach Kingsley Jones considering the Canadian men had just four tests in each of 2022 and ’23 and have played just 10 times (4-6-0) since October 2021, when their bid to qualify for the 2023 World Cup ended in failure in a series loss to Chile.

Only two of those 10 matches were on Canadian soil. Canada blanked No. 26 Belgium 45-0 in Halifax and lost 57-34 to Spain in Ottawa in July 2022.

Canada will face Scotland on July 6 and Romania on July 12 at TD Place.

The Canadians will then host Japan on Aug. 25 at B.C. Place Stadium to kick off Pool B play in the rebranded Pacific Nations Cup before heading to Los Angeles to take on the 17th-ranked United States on Aug. 31

The Vancouver game will mark the fifth time B.C. Place has hosted an international test match.

The six-team Pacific Nations Cup, which sees No. 11 Fiji, No. 14 Samoa and No. 16 Tonga compete in Pool A, then shifts to Japan for the semifinals, final and fifth-place playoff Sept. 14 to 21. The tournament offers four matches in total if Canada makes it to the semifinal, with a third-place game also on tap.

Canada plans to play three more test matches in November, likely in Europe against opposition yet to be announced.

Jones, a former Wales captain who was named Canada coach in September 2017, calls the newly announced 2024 calendar a “real exciting opportunity for us.”

“It’s huge,” said Jones. “How can you measure the players, how can you measure the coaches? It’s impossible to build anything with four games a year.

“We have an opportunity now to really spend some time with the players, work hard, try and grow, measure against good opposition where we’re at,” he added. “With everything equal.”

In the past, the playing field often has been anything but equal with opposing teams having more games under their belt than Canada.

Scotland will be a test this summer. The Scots currently sit second behind unbeaten Ireland in the Six Nations table at 2-1-0 with wins over No. 8 Wales (27-26) and No. 5 England (30-21).

Canada and Scotland will play for the Douglas Horn Cup, which belongs to Scotland after its 48-10 win over Canada in June 2018 in Edmonton.

The trophy, first played for in 2008, is contested any time Scotland and Canada play rugby. It is named after the father of the late Alan Horn, a former Rogers executive and longtime Canadian rugby supporter

The July tests will bump heads against the Major League Rugby playoffs and while MLR teams have to release their players for international duty, those on playoff teams may be available for less time in the Canada camp.

Jones expects the 2024 MLR season, which opens this weekend, to feature 50-plus Canadians even with the Toronto Arrows having folded in the off-season. The defending champion New England Free Jacks have 12 Canadians on their roster.

The Canada men last played in November, defeating No. 29 Brazil 40-15 and losing 42-20 to No. 19 Spain at the La Vila International Cup in Villajoyosa,Spain.

In August, Canada lost a pair of matches to Tonga, 28-7 and 36-12, on a Pacific Islands tour.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024.

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