Forgotten Nations of Rugby: Canada
Welcome to the ultimate guide to the forgotten nations of world rugby.
Each week we'll profile a smaller rugby playing country, so when world cup time rolls around you can amaze people with your knowledge of Portugal's back row options.
First up is the winter wonderland of the north, Canada!
Forgotten Nation is probably a little harsh here, Canada is a country who is making its mark on World Rugby. They've played in every Rugby World Cup and are certainly capable of giving a Tier 1 team a challenge on their day.
I lived in Canada for a couple of years, Toronto to be precise, and one thing that surprised me once there was the interest in rugby around the city.
These guys loved it. I played for a local team which played in the Marshall – a league that includes teams from all over Ontario. Aside from a senior set up of two men's teams, this club also boasted a competitive women's team as well as an active mini and youths set up.
But you know, the more I thought about it, the less surprising the interest in rugby was.
If anyone has ever been to Canada they'll tell you that in general (the big cities in particular) the country is a multicultural hotbed. It's common for teams from cities like Toronto and Vancouver to have a mixture of Canadians, Irish, English, Scottish, French and plenty of Aussies and Kiwis.
With this mix of rugby pedigree and the solid background of Canadian Football, the game is really starting to take off here.
So let's take a look at the state of rugby in Canada:
Canada's rugby profile:
World Ranking: 24th
Biggest Win: 22-15, vs. Argentina 2005
Most International Tries: DTH Van der Merwe
Biggest Export: DTH Van der Merwe
Most Capped Player: Aaron Carpenter, 79
Most Points: James Pritchard, 607
Professional League: No
World Cup Appearances: 8
Highest Finish: Quarter Finals, 1991
A need for professional teams
Rugby has been going under quite the revival in Canada and there are now more than 300 clubs with over 70,000 registered players.
The key now for Canada is to gain more international recognition. A professional set up would obviously be ideal but with the recent collapse of the Pro League in the US this seems unlikely. Having as many players playing at a pro level as possible would be a huge benefit to Canada.
The Toronto Wolfpack might well be the template to follow. This new rugby league outfit have enjoyed great success competing in and gaining promotion from the third tier of Rugby League in England this past year.
A trans-Atlantic set up might well be the best way to grow the sport to a professional level.
Rugby World Cup qualification
The principle concern for Canada this very minute must be qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. Having lost to America over the summer, the Canadians face a play-off against Uruguay to avoid missing the world cup for the first time.
Canada is certainly a rugby nation on the rise and is in a good position to try and gain a stronghold over the Tier 2 and 3 nations. Investment in the local game and the continued funding of rugby sevens will be crucial to developing a strong national game.
Canadians in Europe?
So, do you think we’ll ever see a Canadian team playing in Europe? Let us know in the comments below.