Although serving in part as a preparation game ahead of the U17s participation at the RFU’s Wellington Festival, which starts for the team on April 8 with a match against Belgium, the Welsh test has other important implications for Rugby Canada.
“This game against Wales is the Welsh team that is playing in the RFU U16 Four Nations and it is a warm up game for their fixture against England U16 in that tournament,” Coach Jim Delaney explained. “This RFU U16 Four Nations tournament is the one that Canada U17 are hoping to be involved in in the future, along with France U16 and Italy U17.”
Delaney said earlier that the fixture would be targeted as an opportunity to raise both eyebrows and support for Rugby Canada’s future inclusion in that event. More immediately it will also provide an important benchmark to see where the team is at this standard. “I am expecting us to not be quite up to that level yet, but we don’t know at this point where we stand, so it is a great test for us,” he said.
Team Captain Oliver Nott from Shawnigan Lake School, Cowichan, is confident his players will be able to use the experience gained against a strong Gloucester Academy side on Monday to meet the Welsh challenge head-on. “I think we will benefit from the loss, as we can use that game to analyze ourselves and get better as a team.”
He said he was proud in seeing how the team had responded to the challenges of moving up in levels of game pace and opposition against Gloucester and of the team spirit which is building on the tour.
“[Gloucester] was very clinical around the breakdown and was strong in attack. But I think the Canadian boys played excellently given that it was their first time playing at this sort of level. They stepped up and met the challenges they faced,” he said.
“Our next game is against Wales U16, and I think the atmosphere for the game is strong and encouraging among the boys,” he said.
Preparation for the match began Tuesday morning with a limited-contact technique session, followed by recovery session utilizing hot and cold baths at the state-of-the-art sports academy at Hartpury. After lunch the players spent the afternoon analyzing the video from the Gloucester match. “We have identified the opportunities that exist for these players and they have each developed some key objectives for this next game, which will be another opportunity for the players to improve their understanding of the game at this level now that they have an understanding of the level we are striving for,” Delaney said.
“Obviously we are conscious of the fact that we can expect Wales U16 to be a stronger test for these players than the team we played last night, but we expect that our performance as individuals and as a team will improve.”
Canada U17 vs. Wales Schools U16 kicks off at 19:00 on Wednesday, April 4 at Rodney Parade, Newport.