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Wales know more about Canada’s Welsh coaches than the team

July 1, 2021 GMT

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Wales doesn’t know much about the Canada team it faces on Saturday at Principality Stadium. It knows a lot about its coaches though.

Canada coach Kingsley Jones and assistant Rob Howley are former Wales teammates and captains. Another assistant, Byron Hayward, was another Wales teammate of theirs, and worked under current Wales coach Wayne Pivac until he was released last December.

Jones also coached the Newport-based Dragons and briefly worked for the Welsh Rugby Union until Canada called in 2017.

Howley assisted former Wales coach Warren Gatland and was a big part of their success for 11 years until just before the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan when he was caught breaching betting rules. He was banned for 18 months, nine months suspended.

Jones hired Howley last year and Hayward this year as a technical adviser and, because of the pandemic, Canada’s first opponent since the Rugby World Cup 21 months ago is Wales.

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“If someone had told me 18 months, two years ago, that my first (international) game back would have been against Wales, you couldn’t write it really,” Howley said.

“It is significant for me, and for my family. I’ve been out of the game, I love the game, I’m very passionate and a very passionate Welsh person.

“I like to think I can add value and I’ve enjoyed working with all the coaches in Canada, and particularly the players. The players are on a pathway towards the Rugby World Cup (in 2023), and I’m just so happy to be back involved in the game, and to be back in international rugby.”

Hayward said his first big game back being Wales was an amazing coincidence.

The match will also pull at Jones’ emotions. Last week he realized he’d be in the stadium hearing the Welsh anthem with a permitted crowd of 8,000.

“I was asked which anthem I would sing. ‘Either both or neither,’ that’s what my answer was,” Jones said.

Pivac was happy to see Howley and Hayward back and working.

“Byron has worked really hard to be at the level of the game that he was operating at. It was well documented when he left (Wales) that the chemistry just didn’t work at that point in time with this group,” Pivac said.

“But you don’t become a bad coach overnight, and Byron has done very well in his coaching career. I knew that he would bounce back from that, it was just about waiting for the right opportunity.”

Wales has five uncapped players, starting two, lock Ben Carter and wing Tom Rogers.

Canada has seven uncapped players, starting four. No. 8 Siaki Vikilani, scrumhalf Ross Braude, inside center Quinn Ngawati who came from rugby league’s Toronto Wolfpack, and fullback Cooper Coats from the Canada Sevens have starting debuts.

They are building to Rugby World Cup qualifiers against the United States in September.

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Lineups:

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Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Jonah Holmes, Uilisi Halaholo, Jonathan Davies (captain), Tom Rogers, Callum Sheedy, Tomos Williams; Aaron Wainwright, James Botham, Ross Moriarty, Will Rowlands, Ben Carter, Dillon Lewis, Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith. Reserves: Ryan Elias, Gareth Thomas, Leon Brown, Josh Turnbull, Taine Basham, Kieran Hardy, Ben Thomas, Nick Tompkins.

Canada: Cooper Coats, Cole Davis, Ben Lesage, Quinn Ngawati, Kainoa Lloyd, Peter Nelson, Ross Braude; Siaki Vikilani, Lucas Rumball (captain), Reegan O’Gorman, Josh Larsen, Conor Keys, Jake Ilnicki, Andrew Quattrin, Djustice Sears-Duru. Reserves: Eric Howard, Cole Keith, Tyler Rowland, Donald Carson, Michael Smith, Lucas Albornoz, William Percillier, Robbie Povey.

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