Canada coach Kingsley Jones made two changes to his forward squad for Saturday’s first leg of a Rugby World Cup qualifying series against Chile.
Hooker Eric Howard and lock Kyle Baillie arrive with Andrew Quattrin and Conor Keys falling on the bench. Veteran prop Jake Ilnicki is added to the substitutes at the expense of Matt Tierney.
After Saturday’s game at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., the teams head south for the Oct. 9 return leg in Valparaiso, Chile, to complete the tie on aggregate points.
The 21st-ranked Canadian men suffered a 59-50 loss to the 16th-ranked United States Eagles, which saw the Americans advance to the playoffs with 17th-seeded Uruguay the winner. qualifying for the World Cup as Americas 1 alongside No.1 New Zealand, No.6 France, No.14 Italy and Africa 1 in Pool A.
A victory over No. 28 Chile and Canada will face the loser of the USA-Uruguay series to decide the Americas 2, which will advance to Pool D alongside No. 4 England, No. 8 Argentina, No. 10 Japan and No. 13 Samoa. The loser of the Americas 2 playoffs has one last chance to qualify for France 2023 via a draft tournament.
A defeat against Chile and Canada is made.
Jones said the changes for Saturday were in part to use his roster and keep everyone in the know.
“I think Kyle [Baillie] brings rich experience, ”he said. “Conor Keys did an exceptional job.
“We are looking at two games. Saturday night will be halftime so we just have to make sure everyone stays cool. The group has been fantastic. They know that 30 of us will have a role to play, whether it’s at the start or the finish.
The Canadians never failed to qualify for Showcase Sport, but had to do it the hard way last time around, winning a four-team draft after losing playoffs to the United States and Uruguay.
This time around, Canada led the United States 34-21 after the September 4 first leg in St. John’s, NL. wasted opportunities and was out most of the night as their set pieces faltered at Infinity Park Stadium.
Argentina automatically qualified from the Americas due to their performance at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Uruguay became the first seed in qualifying in South America by winning a three-team tournament that also included Chile and Brazil.
The Chileans advanced to the Americas 2 qualifiers thanks to their second place finish.
Canada and Chile have met in recent years in the Americas Rugby Championship, with the Canadians winning 56-0 in 2019 and 36-15 in 2017. On the road, Canada won 33-17 in 2018 and 64-13 in 2016.
“Obviously it’s a really meaningful game and I think this time around we will see a different Chile than we have played before,” Jones said.