Canada’s Men’s Rugby Team head coach Kingsley Jones has made eight changes to his starting roster to face Russia on Saturday at Twin Elm Rugby Park in the second fixture of the 2018 Summer Series.
DTH van der Merwe and Tyler Ardron have been ruled out for the rest of the series due to injury, while Phil Mack has re-joined the Seattle Seawolves for the Major League Rugby play-offs. In their absence, flanker Lucas Rumball has been handed the responsibility of leading Jones’ charges for the first time in his 20-cap career.
After impressing off the bench against Scotland, flyer Theo Sauder will win his first start at fly-half, while Andrew Ferguson and Cole Davis get the nod at scrum-half and winger, respectively. Cole Keith, Josh Larsen and Dustin Dobravsky all come into the pack against the 19th seeded Europeans.
A new-look backline sees Doug Fraser partner Nick Blevins in midfield. His inclusion sees Ben LeSage drop out of the squad, while Brock Staller has been named at full-back in place of Patrick Parfrey.
Ryan Kotlewski is one of three personnel changes on the Canadian bench with Jorden Sandover-Best in line for his debut and Guiseppe du Toit providing cover for the backs. Djustice Sears-Duru has completed the return to play protocols and has also been named as a substitute after being taken off during the first test against Scotland.
“We have to have one eye on building towards November, creating depth in this group is important but we also really have to win this game. We’re at home and there’s world ranking points at stake. We’re playing against a team that will take part in the World Cup, they’re three places above us in the world rankings so we’re expecting a tough opponent this weekend. It’s a chance for guys to put their hand up and put pressure on the household names and the guys that are playing pro rugby.
“It’s a blow to us, our three captains are out for the rest of the trip. Phil Mack we planned for, he’s got a lead role at his club and we’re supporting that, it’s a big part of his development. Tyler, unfortunately, didn’t recover as we expected from the knock he picked up playing for the Chiefs a few weeks ago. DTH has been fantastic for us as the captain but unfortunately picked up a calf injury which will certainly keep him out for the next ten days.
“I expect a physical game, they’re a big, strong team. They are a team that we don’t want in our twenty-two, they can hurt you and they’ve got some dangerous backs. Their fly-half is a top-class player, vastly experienced, a deadly goal kicker and Russia’s highest points scorer. We expect a wounded animal after their performance last week against the USA. It’s going to be a tough challenge.”
Stats & Facts:
21st ranked, Canada holds a 100%-win record against the 19th ranked Russians – the last meeting finishing in a 46-21 victory for Canada in Calgary in 2016.
Canada head coach, Kingsley Jones is also the former head coach of Russia. Jones spent more than three years with the Russian National Team and left his post with 11 wins from 26 games. Russia never losing to a team ranked below them with Jones at the helm, a 42% win rate.
Twin Elm Rugby Park has hosted eight previous Canadian Internationals. The first on June 5, 1993 against an England XV, the last against USA on August 22, 2015. Canada has a record of four wins and four losses when playing at Twin Elm.
Canada roster to face Russia in Ottawa:
1. Noah Barker – James Bay AA/BC Bears (Courtenay, BC)
2. Ray Barkwill – Seattle Seawolves/Ontario Blues (Niagara Falls, ON)
3. Cole Keith – James Bay AA/Atlantic Rock (Sussex, NB)
4. Josh Larsen – Otago (Parksville, BC)
5. Evan Olmstead – Auckland/Prairie Wolf Pack (Vancouver, BC)
6. Dustin Dobravsky – Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears (Hanover, Germany)
7. Lucas Rumball – Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues (Mississauga, ON)
8. Luke Campbell – James Bay AA/BC Bears (Victoria, BC)
9. Andrew Ferguson – Oakville Crusaders/Ontario Blues (Mississauga, ON)
10. Theo Sauder – UBC Thunderbirds (Vancouver, BC)
11. Cole Davis – Calgary Saints/Prairie Wolf Pack (Calgary, AB)
12. Nick Blevins – Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack (Calgary, AB)
13. Doug Fraser – Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears (Ladysmith, BC)
14. Jeff Hassler – Unattached/Prairie Wolf Pack (Okotoks, AB)
15. Brock Staller – Seattle Seawolves (Vancouver, BC)
16. Eric Howard – New Orleans Gold/Ontario Blues (Ottawa, ON)
17. Djustice Sears-Duru – Unattached/Ontario Blues (Oakville, ON)
18. Ryan Kotlewski – Westshore RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack (Calgary, AB)
19. Conor Keys – UVIC Vikes/Atlantic Rock (Stittsville, ON)
20. Matt Heaton – Darlington Mowden Park/Atlantic Rock (Godmanchester, QC)
21. Jorden Sandover-Best – UBC Old Boys/BC Bears (Abbotsford, BC)
22. Shane O’Leary – Ealing Trailfinders (Cork, Ireland)
23. Guiseppe du Toit – UVIC Vikes/BC Bears (Maple Ridge, BC)
DTH van der Merwe