Canada coach Kingsley Jones wants his team to end a disappointing year on a high when they tackle Namibia in their farewell to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Welshman has overseen dismal campaigns at the Americas Rugby Championship and the Pacific Nations Cup in 2019, and three World Cup defeats means their tournament record this year reads: won one, lost 10.
That lone success was a victory over Chile, and the only way Canada can leave Japan with a sense of real achievement will be to see off Namibia on Sunday in Kamaishi City.
Jones has gone with experience for the Pool B wooden spoon match, making five changes to the side that lost 66-7 to South Africa last time out, as Gordon McRorie, Djustice Sears-Duru, Eric Howard, Conor Keys and Patrick Parfrey come in.
“It might be the last time some of these guys get an opportunity in the shirt,” Jones said.
“Everybody really wants to be a part of this big game ahead. Some tough decisions for us but we feel we’ve got to pick the best 23 to make sure we get that result.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 11, 2019
Given Canada have scored just 14 points across three defeats so far, the Canucks need to find a hitherto unseen cutting edge against a dangerous Namibia side.
“They’re well organised, they’re fast, and they want to play physical so it’s a big challenge for us,” Jones said of Namibia, as quoted on Canada’s official website.
The Namibians are also coached by a Welshman in Phil Davies, and the chance of a first World Cup victory after 22 consecutive defeats at the tournament since their 1999 debut is one they are eager to snatch.
Speaking after his side went down 71-9 to New Zealand last time out, Davies said his squad were physically “banged up” by the All Blacks experience.
But he said the opportunity to play in Kamaishi, a city devastated but now recovering from the deadly March 2011 tsunami, was something Namibia would embrace this weekend.
“I visited Kamaishi in December and it’s an amazing place,” Davies said. “The way they’ve fought back from that disaster is incredible, using the spirit of rugby to rebuild the city.
“We feel very privileged and humbled that we’re trying to add to that rebuild and hopefully we can leave a positive legacy post-match.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Namibia – Eugene Jantjies
Jantjies returns to the Namibia XV after starting on the bench against the All Blacks, coming in for Damian Stevens. The 33-year-old could play a key role in landing that long-elusive first victory.
Canada – DTH van der Merwe
The experienced Van der Merwe will be familiar to British club rugby supporters after his two spells with Glasgow Warriors, either side of stints with the Scarlets and Newcastle. He will win his 62nd cap, moving him level with James Pritchard and Rod Snow for seventh on Canada’s all-time list.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the third meeting between Namibia and Canada in Test rugby. Canada have won both previous clashes, 72-11 at the 1999 Rugby World Cup and 17-13 in 2014.
– Canada have lost just three of their 12 Rugby World Cup matches against second-tier opposition, winning seven and drawing two; however, across their last five such matches they have won just once (D2, L2).
– Namibia’s most recent Rugby World Cup match against a fellow tier-two opponent saw them lose 17-16 to Georgia in the 2015 tournament.
– Canada’s total of 14 points makes them the lowest-scoring side in the pool stage at this tournament. They have scored at least 45 points in each previous Rugby World Cup campaign.
– DTH van der Merwe has gained 948 metres in his Rugby World Cup career, and 52 more would see him become the first player from Canada in the tournament’s history to log 1,000 metres. Only three players from any nation have reached the milestone: Jonah Lomu, Bryan Habana and David Campese.
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