VANCOUVER — Head coach Kingsley Jones believes he knows the answers to what Canada must do to beat Uruguay in a crucial Rugby World Cup qualifying match.
The question is if a week is enough time for the Canadian team to regroup and learn the lessons from a 38-29 defeat in Saturday’s first game of the two-leg series.
“We’ve got not a lot of time to spend on the rugby field practising, but there are certainly a lot of things we have to improve,” Jones said after the loss before an announced attendance of 16,132 at BC Place Stadium.
“There are positives to build on. We have to win by 10 points next week. Can Canada win by 10 points away from home? We haven’t done it for a while, but we need to go and do it.”
The teams play again Saturday in Montevideo. The winner of the two-game aggregate series advances to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Veteran lock Evan Olmstead knows it’s going to be an uphill battled but believes it’s a fight Canada can win.
“I’m confident we can make it up,” said Olmstead, who scored his second career try in the loss. “You see the quality of players we have, but we just have to make sure we all play properly, we stick to the script, do what we’re supposed to do.
“It’s easy to try and rely on a big name to just get us over the line but we’ve got to actually pull together and do things as a team and not just as bunch of individuals.”
Canada gave up a try in the first minute of play but battled back for a 10-point lead early in the first half.
The Uruguayans refused to quit and stormed back to lead 21-17 at halftime.
Even when they trailed, Uruguayan captain Juan Manuel Gaminara said his team didn’t panic.
“When we were attacking we really generated some issues in their defence,” he said.
Jones was frustrated with breakdowns on Canada’s defence which cost his teams points.
“They won the collisions,” he said. “Our lane speed wasn’t what we wanted. That allowed them to come out of the ball with momentum.”
Canada repeatedly moved the ball deep into the Uruguay end but then bogged down and couldn’t score.
“It was a lot of passes we needed at times but then at the wrong time we made that one pass and it wasn’t the right pass,” said Jones.
“The players are disappointed with that. They know they made those decisions and it was probably the wrong decision.”
The Canadian attack was also hobbled when outside-half Connor Braid left the game late in the first half with an ankle injury.
Jones didn’t know Braid’s status for this week.
Center Nick Blevins and wing DTH van der Merwe also scored tries for Canada. Braid kicked a pair of converts and added a penalty kick.
Canada also was awarded a penalty try when Uruguay was called for collapsing a maul.
Fullback Rodrigo Silva, wing Leandro Leivas, tighthead Mario Sagario and locks Ignacio Dotti and Rodrigo Capo scored tries for Uruguay. Outside-half Felipe Berchesi made the converts but missed three out of four penalty kicks.
Canada is currently ranked 21st in the world while Uruguay is 18th.
If Canada losses the series against Uruguay, it has one more chance to qualify for the World Cup through a repechage series.
Jones believes his players can turn the table on Uruguay.
“We’ve got a nine-point deficit to turn around,” he said. “It will be a tough challenge. We have to rise to it, make sure we are all on our feet and ready to go.”
NOTES: Canada has never failed to qualify for a World Cup since entering the international stage in 1932. … The team that advances from this series will play in Group D at the World Cup against No. 4 Australia, No. 7 Wales, No. 10 Fiji and No. 12 Georgia. … Canada has given up a total of 279 points in six matches.
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