This week we take a quick look at Canada’s fixtures in Europe this autumn. I was surprised to see many citing these fixtures as excellent preparation for Canada’s campaign in next year’s Rugby World Cup. I for one, although not denying the value of the games, can’t help being disappointed at the quality of the opposition we are up against.
So who do we have to test our spurs against over a four week period? Samoa, Namibia and Romania. Of these three I would argue the only real test will be Samoa as a judge of where we stand in our preparation for next year’s World Cup. This is not to devalue the importance of the games against Namibia and Romania or to show any disrespect to the rugby played by these two countries, especially as Romania will be in our pool at next year’s World Cup. However, if Canada is to compete and hold its head high amongst the world’s best next year then we need some more quality opposition. I was very disheartened to see that we are not playing any of the Six Nations or Rugby Championship countries. The fact that we are not playing any of our major pool opponents, France, Italy or Ireland is inexcusable. Although I am sure the considerable financial opportunities available to the US Rugby Union helped to facilitate the All Blacks playing the USA in Chicago as the All Blacks make their way to Europe in October – could we not have had a similar match up against Australia in Vancouver as they make their way to Europe? I still hold to my point last week that Canada should be striving to play a country like Argentina once a year. I am still convinced that the story of Argentina has many lessons for Canada. Argentina ten years ago is where Canada is now and look how far the Pumas have come in ten years and the respect they are given by the big rugby nations of Europe and the Southern Hemisphere.
I am sure that in the professional era, it is all sponsors and bums on seats that decides who gets to play who, but surely Canada is enough of a pull to get at least one game against one of the Six Nations countries. It is my hope that Rugby Canada takes this on board and somehow ensures that at least in June next year, Canada gets to play one of the top ten nations both at home and away. Without this kind of exposure it is unlikely that we will cause any big upsets next year at the World Cup which is sad given the talent we have, and the recent spectacular Canadian performance and success at the Women’s World Cup. Rugby Canada has some serious homework to do between now and September 2015.