Uphill battle facing Canada

It was not just Canada’s ambitions for the 2007 World Cup that suffered a major setback with a 29-16 defeat to Fiji, but the nation’s rugby future.

Canada needed a victory to keep alive realistic hopes of finishing third in Pool B and claiming the lucrative prize of automatic qualification for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

With that place would have come increased funding from the International Rugby Board (IRB) and an opportunity to secure long-term sponsorship deals that are so vital for countries who are trying to develop the sport.

The sense of stability and certainty, knowing they would be appearing in New Zealand in four years’ time, would have allowed Rugby Canada to plan for the long term.

But in a nail-biting finish at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Sunday, they missed out on all that.

Canada must now wait for the IRB to decide whether the number of participating teams at the 2011 Rugby World Cup will be cut from 20 to 16.

The proposal has already been under discussion and, if it is accepted, only four places will be available to qualifiers.

To make matters worse, Canada were on the wrong end of a controversial decision from match official Craig Joubert that could have changed the picture completely.

With eight minutes remaining, full-back Mike Pyke charged for the line but was deemed to have made a double-movement in his attempt to score and the potential try was disallowed.

Nevertheless, Canada still had time and opportunities to win it.

They were camped on the Fijian line in the closing minutes and, given their superiority in the tight, a winning try seemed inevitable.

But the ball squeezed out the side of the ruck and Fijian full-back Kameli Ratuvou sprinted 95 metres to score and deny Canada the consolation of a losing bonus point.

Canada returned to their training base in Bordeaux on Thursday to prepare for the final two pool matches, against Japan (September 25) and Australia (September 28).

Fly-half Ryan Smith insists the Canucks cannot allow the frustration to eat away at them.

“The nine days we have off now will enable us to re-focus our objectives and put this game behind us,” Smith said.

“We need to learn from our mistakes and regenerate.

“We will sit down individually and watch the Fiji match. It is up to each individual to stay positive.”


365 Digital

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