Canada Men’s XVs – March 2024

Who Will Be Canada’s Next Halfback Pairing?

With the Easter weekend upon us, the BC Rugby leagues taking a break for the weekend, I thought I’d turn attention to a question some may be pondering now, who will be the halfbacks for Canada when they start play this summer?

If you go back to the La Vila tournament in Spain in November, you would say Rob Povey at #10 and Jason Higgins at #9 but neither player has got a start this season with their respective MLR teams, Povey at Utah and Higgins at Chicago. If you can’t get consistent start time at the MLR level, should you be the default for the national team? That’s the question Kingsley Jones has to ask, however he hasn’t varied a lot in his selections during his time as head coach of Canada.

Peter Nelson owned the #10 jersey for most of Canada’s failed attempt to qualify for the World Cup. That’s another name that would be in Jones’ focus but he started at fullback during the La Vila tournament.

If you look at players getting consistent start time in the MLR then Shane O’Leary comes to the forefront but he’s starting at #15 for Miami, the Uruguay player Felipe Etcheverry is the starting #10 for Miami. O’Leary would seem to be in the running for starting fullback for Canada.

Gradyn Bowd for Old Glory DC would be in the running, he started the first two games at #10 but then was moved to the reserves and replaced by Jason Robertson, a Zimbabwe born player with experience in NZ at NPC level and Pro D2 in France.

Further afield Jamin Hodgkins has been consistently starting at #10 for the Bridgend Ravens in the Welsh Premier league. Actually this coming weekend it’s Bridgend vs Pontypool, that match could feature Jamin Hodgkins at #10 for the Ravens vs Izzak Kelly at second row for Pontypool.

Closer to home, the Vancouver Highlanders look like they’ve gone with Josh Thiel and James Biss as #10 options, they’ll be worth watching this summer.

In the BC Premier league, Aaron McLelland of the UBCOB Ravens is probably the on form #10, and should have been capped years ago in XVs or 7s.

Some younger players at #10 in the BC Premier who have impressed recently are Mark Balaski for the Pride in their win over Capilano, Angus Boyd-Porter for UVic vs CW, there are likely others and use the comment section below to give a mention to an up and coming #10 who deserve to be on the radar.

Then there are the 7s players, Cooper Coats, Brock Webster – Max Stewart was looking promising at #10 with the Pride before moving to 7s.

Knowing Kingsley Jones pattern for being conservative in his selections, it’s likely Povey, Nelson, Bowd as his first choices for #10, maybe O’Leary if he gets back in his good books, the outlier may be Jamin Hodgkins. We’ll see when summer rolls around.

As for #9, with Ross Braude gone from MLR will he still be in contention, or will Higgins be the first option as he was for the La Vila tournament. Reid Watkins has moved up the pecking order and was backup to Higgins for La Vila. Brock Gallagher is in MLR now but hasn’t had any starts yet. Jack Carson has proven himself on the 7s circuit and then there’s the Percillier’s Matt and Will. The last we read about Will Percillier was that he was on loan from Stade Francais to RC Vannes but it’s uncertain as to whether he is still playing with them.

The four fixtures announced for the summer to date have been:

July 6 vs Scotland
TD Place
Ottawa, Ontario

July 12 vs Romania
TD Place
Ottawa, Ontario

August 25 vs Japan
BC Place
Vancouver, BC

August 31 vs USA
Dignity Health Sports Park
Carson, California



Posted in Front Page, National Men's XVs.

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