Canada qualifies for 2019 Rugby World Cup, completes lineup
MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Canada upheld its record of appearing in every Rugby World Cup by claiming the 20th and last berth in the 2019 championship on Friday.
The Canadians qualified by defeating Hong Kong 27-10 in the rain on a chewed-up field in Marseille, with two brilliant tries by record try-scorer DTH van der Merwe.
As the unbeaten winner of the four-team repechage, Canada filled out Pool B in Japan, where it will play past champions New Zealand and South Africa, Italy, and Namibia in a 17-day span from September.
Canada has opposed all four teams previously at Rugby World Cups, and beaten only Namibia, in 1999. Canada’s best finish was the quarterfinals in 1991, when it lost to New Zealand.
Qualification puts some gloss on a long slump for Canada. This win was only its 11th in 33 tests since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Hong Kong could have qualified for its first Rugby World Cup with a bonus-point win over Canada, but it squandered possession and territory by lacking a cutting edge in the first half, and succumbing in the set-pieces in the second half. Hong Kong lost five of its throw-ins and was penalized frequently in scrums.
Not long after Germany beat Kenya 43-6 to ultimately finish second in the repechage, Canada held out Hong Kong in the first 12 minutes, then hooker Ray Barkwill burrowed between the posts off ruck ball for the first of Canada’s three tries. Barkwill made his Canada debut at age 32 and will be 39 by the Rugby World Cup.
Matthew Rosslee kicked a penalty for Hong Kong to narrow the gap to 7-3, but from the kickoff his attempted clearance from his 22 was charged down by Van der Merwe, who regathered the ball at his shoes and twisted over the line.
Flyhalf Gordon McRorie converted again, then was sin-binned on halftime for a deliberate knock down. Only after he returned did Hong Kong score.
From a quick tap penalty by scrumhalf Liam Slatem, winger Conor Hartley plunged the ball beside the right corner flag to cut Canada’s lead to 14-10.
But McRorie hit two more penalties to push the score to a safe-looking 20-10 with 13 minutes to go.
Trust Van der Merwe to clinch qualification. Given an overlap 30 meters out with little room on the left wing, he rounded one defender, then another, slipped one tackle and crashed over the line in another tackle in a great solo try.
It was his fifth try of the tournament, and ninth this year. The Glasgow-based wing scored a try in all four of Canada’s four defeats at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and he’s qualified for his fourth tournament.