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Nelson can make big impact: Jones

Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

County Tyrone native Pete Nelson, who left Ulster at the end of last season, will make his World Cup debut for Canada when they meet Italy in Fukuoka tomorrow (8.45am UK/Irish time).

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The former Irish under-20 international will start at fly-half against Conor O'Shea's side after making his debut for Les Rouges only back in July.

Qualifying for Kingsley Jones' panel by virtue of a Toronto-born grandmother, his new head coach yesterday said he brings an invaluable level of professional experience to the squad who were the last to qualify for the tournament in Japan.

"Ten is a position that hasn't really been settled in Canadian rugby for a while," Jones said from Fukuoka where Ireland will meet Samoa later in the tournament. "We played a number of players in that position.

"He's been a professional rugby player for eight, nine years. There are not many Canadian players that we can say that about, unfortunately.

"The numbers are growing, of course, but he offers us a lot of experience, and the biggest thing really is a left foot (kicker).

"I've never seen a test team without a left foot on the team and, unfortunately, we haven't got many of those guys around so that's a big bonus for us."

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Nelson, who represented Ulster on 60 occasions, isn't the only familiar face for fans of the PRO 14.

Glasgow wing DTH van der Merwe will take part in a fourth World Cup, while former Ospreys pair Jeff Hassler and Tyler Ardron are also in the side.

Also in a group with New Zealand and South Africa, as well as Namibia, Jones knows all too well the size of the task ahead.

"We could pray for a bit of rainfall on the day and apparently it's a draw so if we get that against New Zealand with two other wins, that would just get us through," he joked. "But we're realistic. We know where we're at and it would be a proud day for the guys to play against the All Blacks and the Springboks. All I expect from the players is to go out and give everything no matter what goes before or afterwards.

"First for us is Italy so we're not looking much further than that, that's the reality of it."

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