Canada’s U20 men’s team left for Uruguay today in anticipation of the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2017, which opens Aug. 29 at the Estadio Charrua in Montevideo.
Canada opens the competition Tuesday against Namibia (9am ET/6am PT).
The tournament, which runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 10, will feature a veteran Canadian side that is looking to qualify for the World Rugby U20 Championship for the first time since 2009. The winner of the U20 Trophy will earn promotion to the upper-echelon tournament in 2018, which features the top junior teams in the world.
“There is a lot of experience on this team,” said Canada head coach Jeff Williams. “We have quite a diverse group with a number of guys in different positions with experience, which will be really helpful. I think this group is also really driven.”
Having missed the 2016 tournament, this year’s team intends to return in emphatic fashion, with their eyes set on securing the title. With three players, in captain George Barton, Matt Beukeboom and Cole Keith, already capped with Canada’s senior men’s team, Canada is fielding a squad that has the potential to earn promotion.
“The whole team is a group of experienced guys,” said Williams, whose team had 10 different try-scorers in their two-game qualifying series against the USA. “The key thing with this team is that everyone has an important role. I wouldn’t say there is anyone that is a superstar on the team. They’re all very, very good players and hopefully most of them will go on to play for the senior men’s team. But I’ve tried to emphasize with the guys that the only way we’re going to achieve anything is through a team effort.”
Canada have been drawn into Pool A where they will face Japan, who was relegated to the Trophy after finishing last in the Championship in 2016, Chile and Namibia. The winner of each pool will meet in the final
While Williams will have the players playing an expansive style of rugby, the team also has a powerful pack that will be a driving force in Montevideo.
“Our signature is our set piece and our forwards,” Barton said. “We have a very powerful scrum and a good lineup with tall jumpers and strong boosters. We also have some absolute weapons on the outside. With the power of our tight five, we’re going to be able to draw teams in and create an overlap on the outside, which we should be able to take advantage of with some of the speedsters we have out there.”
Canada have reached the World Rugby U20 Trophy final twice in the last four years. In the 2015 final, they were beaten 49-24 by Georgia and in 2013, they lost 45-23 against Italy. While the team has yet to qualify for the Championship since the tournament was reduced to a 12-team format in 2009, Williams is insistent that Canada could be right there at the very end.
“We set three goals as a team,” he said. “The first goal was to qualify. The second is to win our pool. And the third goal, although it’s ambitious, is to win the World Junior Trophy. I think every coach would say that about their team. You have to have those goals. We’re going in there thinking we can win and I think that’s the attitude you have to have. Players want those lofty goals and it makes them work harder and it makes them be held more accountable for the things they do on a daily basis.”
Following Canada’s game against Namibia, they will face Japan Sept. 2 and Chile Sept. 6.
The final will be played Sept. 10, along with the third, fifth and seventh place matches. Pool B features hosts Uruguay alongside Fiji, Portugal and Hong Kong.
Canada qualified for the tournament after beating the USA in a two-game qualifying series in Edmonton. Canada cruised to a 46-12 victory in Game 1 and despite a 27-25 defeat in Game 2, Canada qualified by virtue of a 71-39 aggregate win.
Canada’s World Rugby U20 Trophy 2017 Squad:
George Barton (Clermont) Duncan, BC (captain)
Matt Beukeboom (Section Paloise) Lindsay, ON
Niko Clironomos (UBC Thunderbirds) Burnaby, BC
Lachlan Currie (Bond University) Gold Coast, Australia
Thomas Davidson (Toronto Scottish RFC), Chelsea, QC
Cole Davis (Canberra Royals) Calgary, AB
Liam Doll (UBC Thunderbirds) North Vancouver, BC
Nicholas Frost (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC
Fraser Hurst (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC
Cole Keith (James Bay AA) Sussex, NB
Will Kelly (Brantford Harlequins) Ancaster, ON
Dewald Kotze (UBCOB Ravens) Edmonton, AB
Jack McCarthy (Vandals RFC) St. John’s, NL
Aidan McMullan (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC), Montreal, QC
Jamie McNaughton Carleton Place, ON
Jack McRogers (Aurora Barbarians) Newmarket, ON
Liam Murray (Langley) Langley, BC
Evan Norris, (Shawnigan Lake School) Victoria, BC
Steven Ng (Capilano RFC) Ottawa, ON
Anton Ngongo (Castaway Wanderers) Victoria, BC
James O’Neill (UVic Vikes) Cochrane, AB
William McDougall-Percillier (Cowichan Piggies) Mill Bay, Victoria
Brennig Prevost (UVic Vikes) Victoria, BC
Connor Sampson (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC
Jake Thiel (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Josh Thiel (Bishop Burton College) Abbotsford, BC
Submitted by Mark Janzen - Rugby Canada Communications