TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Ireland age-group flyhalf Peter Nelson will make his World Cup debut for Canada when they face Italy in their first Pool B clash in Fukuoka on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Nelson, who qualifies for Canada through his Toronto-born mother, only made his debut for the North Americans two months ago.
The former Ulster player, however, had settled in well with the Canada squad, coach Kingsley Jones said, and had been selected because the country had been struggling to find a consistent flyhalf at international level.
“Ten is a position that hasn’t really been settled in Canadian rugby for a while,” Jones said on Tuesday. “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.”
Jones added that his side had struggled with injuries, with Evan Olmstead and Taylor Paris both ruled out of the match while Josh Larsen, a late addition to the squad when Justin Blanchet suffered concussion, will start at lock.
Canada were the last team to qualify for the tournament and Jones said before it started that his side were a little behind the others in terms of their planning and preparation but they had come together well over the last six weeks.
“We’re realistic. We know where we’re at,” he said. “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.”
15-Patrick Parfrey, 14-Jeff Hassler, 13-Ben Lesage, 12-Nick Blevins, 11-DTH Van Der Merwe, 10-Peter Nelson, 9-Gordon McRorie,8-Tyler Ardron (captain), 7-Lucas Rumball, 6-Michael Sheppard, 5-Josh Larsen, 4-Conor Keys, 3-Matt Tierney, 2-Eric Howard, 1-Hubert Buydens
Replacements: 16-Benoit Piffero, 17-Djustice Duru-Sears, 18-Jake Ilnicki, 19-Luke Campbell, 20-Matt Heaton, 21-Jamie Mackenzie, 22-Ciaran Hearn, 23-Andrew Coe.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Tony Lawrence)