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Rugby World Cup: Canada coach Kieran Crowley fears his side will be left behind

By Jonathan Bradley

As a team that have reached the quarter-finals only once in their history, Canada enter the World Cup with vastly different goals than opening opponents Ireland and head coach Kieran Crowley insists that North America needs a professional league if they are ever to bridge the gap.

The Canucks have featured at every edition of the tournament but without a pro domestic set-up Crowley - the former All Black who was part of the 1987 squad that won the inaugural World Cup - fears that the country he has led for seven years could fall behind.

Canada - who gave Ireland something of a fright back in 2013, trailing only 12-9 at half-time before eventually losing 40-14 - have won seven World Cup games but could face an uphill struggle against Ireland, France, Italy and Romania.

"You look at countries like Romania and Georgia, they have professional club competitions and their players now also play in (bigger leagues in) Europe -we have to have that," said Crowley.

"We have improved massively over the last seven years but so has everyone else, so you have to have that sort of competition to also keep coaches and administrators coming through.

"We need to always be looking up and broadening our horizons."

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His squad, who attended their World Cup welcome ceremony at Brangwyn Hall in Swansea yesterday, do have a number of players who are familiar to fans of the PRO12 and European rugby.

Tyler Ardron, their 24-year-old captain, has been an impressive figure for the Ospreys in recent seasons where he is a club mate of the fit-again wing Jeff Hassler.

They will be joined in the principality this season by DTH van der Merwe, who has swapped champions Glasgow for Scarlets, while there are also a smattering of squad members performing in the English Championship.

Clermont stalwart Jamie Cudmore remains their most recognisable face - and not just for his infamous Heineken Cup scuffle with Paul O'Connell back in 2008 - but Crowley believes that his side need professionals at home.

"We have to have a professional competition in North America," he said. "The players in the US and Canada need to play in the same sort of environment that Jeff Hassler and Tyler Ardron have.

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"They were in Canada, then they suddenly got a chance in a daily, professional training environment and you can see the strides they have made.

"There are a lot of players in Canada that if they had that opportunity would make the same strides. They can't get that because of them having foreign passports so there has to be a pro competition in North America."

Meanwhile, Crowley has downplayed any giant-killing talk and told his squad to target a third-place finish in Pool D to assure qualification for the 2019 tournament in Japan.

"A good World Cup will be qualifying for the next one, so you have to finish third in your pool for that," said Crowley. "You have got to win at least two games.

"Ireland are likely to top the group. They are one of the favourites and they are European champions."

Belfast Telegraph


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