What Are Canada's Options Going Into Saturday's Match Against Uruguay: What They Need to Improve; What are the Consequences
It's been a few days since the match, the rugby community are somberly reflecting on the loss, comments and advice are plentiful from the pundits. It certainly was one of the low points for Canadian rugby, there's been a few lately. In retrospect the trip to the UK to practice with Oxford, the hiring of the former France coach as a week long consultant, all seem a waste of money and perhaps more of a distraction than a useful exercise. The Canadian way might have been bring in Jamie Cudmore as guest coach, get a local match, like Uruguay did with Houston, and fire the team up with talks from the numerous former Canada greats in the Vancouver area. Let's face it the people running Rugby Canada are too enamoured with the bright lights of the "home nations" - Canada may have independence from England now but the memo hasn't reached Rugby Canada HQ yet.
The question is now how to win the game this weekend by 10 points or more. It won't be easy playing in the middle of the Uruguay summer with temperatures near 30C. What can Canada change in one week to get a different outcome, easy first step is cut down the errors. The first two Uruguay tries started with field position gifted by dropped balls from up and under kicks. The second easy step, make your tackles, it's cringe-worthy to watch some of the Uruguay tries and the missed tackles. The only other point we'll focus on here is defensive line speed, it takes no great skill to come off your line to put pressure on the attacking team and make tackles on their side of the gain line.
We took a look at Uruguay's try at the end of the half, the field position came about due to a penalty against Canada on a scrum infraction but it's the defensive line speed we want to talk about. We put in a clip from a recent Saracens v Ospreys game as a comparison. First look at Canada, Beukeboom and Heaton had a chance to put pressure on the first receiver, the ruck is over as soon as the ball is raised from the ground. The pass is low but because no one is pressuring him the fly half has plenty of time to set up the play, Ardron misses the tackle, perhaps expecting Beukeboom to do more than give the flyhalf a hug. It quickly goes down hill from there. Beukeboom slow to get back in the line creates a diversion for the scrum half to scamper through helped by more missed tackles. It was frustrating. Compare that to the Ospreys player who shoots off the line the millisecond the ball is off the ground in the scrum half's hand. The first receiver has no chance of setting up a play. It's common to see at least one player come up fast to disrupt the first pass from a ruck in the professional game and put the attacking team under pressure. There was very little of that from Canada, Ben LeSage the player from UBC probably the most noticeable, likely a result of the coaching he gets at UBC. Let's see some intensity in defence and some pressure on the Uruguay players, mistakes will happen, it's all about the pressure.
What Happens to the Vanquished
Either Uruguay or Canada will have to face the consequences of the loss, the repechage. We don't know much about it because Canada has never been in that position, plus World Rugby changed the rules. Last World Cup Uruguay and Russia went at it in a home and away series, winner went to the World Cup. It was Uruguay who advanced, Russia was coached by Kingsley Jones, as an interesting sidenote, he quit just before the repechage and passed the coaching over to Raphaël Saint-André the brother of Philippe Saint-André, the person he brought in as a consultant in Vancouver. It's a small world.
According to World Rugby this is how it's going to work this World Cup, there will be a four team repechage tournament, likely in November 2018. The loser of Canada/Uruguay goes in from the Americas. The European entrant takes a convoluted route, the winner of the European championship between Romania, Spain, Germany, Russia goes to the World Cup as Europe 1, the second place team then have to play Portugal. The winner of that game, Europe 2, then has to play Samoa for the "Play-Off" spot in Pool A. The winner goes to the World Cup the loser goes into the repechage. The Asian representative is determined by a game between the top Asian team (not Japan), likely Hong Kong, and Oceania 4 which is Tahiti. The African contender is the team to come second in their Africa Gold Cup between Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Tunisia, Uganda.
So the likely scenario is either Canada/Uruguay, Spain (assuming Romania win Europe, Spain comes second, beats Portugal but loses to Samoa), Hong Kong (Tahiti, really?), Kenya (assuming Namibia (23) win Africa and Kenya (30) are second).
Nothing to it right? World Rugby had this article to share this week.
from World Rugby
Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara insists his side have “only won the first half” of Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier with Canada and last weekend's win in Vancouver will count for nothing if they don't see it through and secure the Americas 2 place.
Los Teros' return to Montevideo was full of joy but captain Juan Manuel Gaminara was quick to point out his side have “only won the first half” and it will all be for nothing if they don't follow through and secure their place at Rugby World Cup 2019 this weekend.
With the Americas 2 slot in Pool D at stake and dates with Australia, Wales, Georgia and Fiji awaiting the winner of the series against Canada, Uruguay are nine points to the good after their 38-29 win at BC Place last Saturday.
Los Teros have never been in such a position in a game that could confirm their place at a fourth Rugby World Cup. Yet, they know that the Canadians will throw everything at them at the Estadio Charrúa as they attempt to overhaul that deficit.
“The goal for the week is not to think about the points difference. We must continue to trust the work done but respect Canada. When they played they were very hard and in a 10-minute period they scored 14 points,” said Gaminara.
Gaminara, nicknamed Garrafa (gas tank), first played for Uruguay in the RWC 2011 repechage, a failed series against Romania.
“Romania was very tough and our preparation was nothing like what it is now in terms of structure and what players have. When we qualified against Russia for England 2015, the Charrúa High Performance centre was in its infancy. Things are so different now. We have 12 players that were in the process leading to RWC 2015.”
A BIT OF HISTORY
For their first trip to a Rugby World Cup in 1999, Uruguay had to beat Portugal home and away and then play in the final repechage series against Morocco, first in Montevideo and then in Casablanca. The 18-3 win at home gave them a comfortable cushion for the return game, which despite the 21-18 loss meant Los Teros qualified.
By 2002, the format changed for the Americas and two nations were to qualify from a four-team round robin, home-and-away series. Uruguay lost the three games on the road but finished at home with three consecutive victories, narrow wins over Canada and USA were followed by a huge win against Chile that gave them, and Canada, the tickets to Australia in 2003.
Missing out at the final repechage hurdle for the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, against Portugal and Romania respectively, made qualification for England 2015 even sweeter.
Uruguay ran out 38-29 victors over Canada in the first leg of their #RWC2019 qualifier.
The return match takes place next Saturday in Montevideo & the winner on aggregate will qualify into Pool D.
The first leg against Russia was played in Krasnoyarsk and Los Teros celebrated the narrow 22-21 loss as it meant the return home basically required a win. The final score of 36-27 ensured a huge sigh of relief and happiness for the near 14,000 spectators that filled the Estadio Charrúa in November 2014.
This time, Gaminara is hoping for an even bigger crowd, despite the match falling in the middle of the Uruguayan summer.
“Hopefully we will have a full stadium as the home support is very important,” admitted the accountant, who works in private banking. “Fortunately, my bosses love rugby and that I am representing the country.”
Professional rugby is the utopia for Uruguayan rugby. “We have been focusing on this for the past three years and since we beat Chile, we narrowed that to the series with Canada.”
The reasons for the win in Vancouver are, in the eyes of the flanker, execution.
“We were lethal in our attacking system every time we had an opportunity. In a game the opening 20 minutes are crucial and to start 7-0 up is always very good. They came back and I think it was a very enjoyable game of rugby. In the end, the team that took their chances better won.”
From the cold of Vancouver to temperatures close to 30 degrees, there are huge challenges for both teams. It is winner takes all and the prize well worth it.
The Americas Rugby Championship 2018 will be streamed LIVE on the World Rugby website at www.worldrugby.org/arc2018. Some geo-blocking restrictions may apply.