The Canadian men's rugby team, which last played in October 2019 at the World Cup in Japan, will return to action in July against tough opposition in Wales and England.
The 23rd-ranked Canadians will face No. 6 Wales on July 3 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff and No. 3 England on July 10 at Twickenham.
It's rare that Canada gets to play Tier 1 nations outside of the World Cup these days. Wales is the defending Six Nations champion while England was runner-up at the 2019 World Cup.
Both sides will be missing top players who will be touring South Africa with the British and Irish Lions. England has 11 players on the 37-man Lions squad while Wales has 10.
"It's an exciting challenge to have the opportunity to play against two of the best teams in the world," Canada coach Kingsley Jones said Monday from Seattle, part of a U.S. trip scouting Canadian talent in Major League Rugby.
"You're right, they'll have players missing but the depth Wales has produced over the last 12 months ... They discovered a lot of players. And England are going to be very very hard to beat. (Coach) Eddie Jones didn't have the Six Nations he wanted and he's a fantastic coach."
England ran in 12 tries, blanking Canada 70-0 when the two met at Twickenham in November 2004. The Welsh scored nine tries en route to a 61-26 win over the Canadians in Cardiff in November 2006
But Canada scored a historic 26-24 upset of Wales in November 1993 at Cardiff Arms Park thanks to a last-ditch try by Al Charron and conversion by Gareth Rees.
The Canadian men lost 37-6 to England A in the 2011 Churchill Cup.
The upcoming Wales match will mark 632 days since Canada closed out its World Cup campaign in a 66-7 loss to eventual World Cup champion South Africa on Oct. 8, 2019, in Kobe, Japan. A subsequent World Cup match against Namibia was cancelled due to typhoon Hagibis.
The summer fixtures were part of World Rugby's revised men’s July test schedule announced Monday. Twenty-five of the top 30 teams will be in action.
Canada was originally set to host England in Toronto this summer but pandemic-related travel restrictions have shifted the game and others to Europe.
Kingsley Jones hopes to take 30 or 32 players to the U.K. for the June tests, art of Canada's preparations for World Cup qualifying matches in the fall.
Jones is a former Wales captain. Canada senior assistant coach Rob Howley won 59 caps for Wales as a player and was part of the Wales coaching staff between 2008 and 2019.
Jones, whose CV includes a stint in the Russia national team coaching setup, has never coach against his homeland. He coached against England at Twickenham in 2010, when he and France's Philippe Saint-Andre served as co-coaches of the Barbarians.
The Canadian men have held one high-performance camp, last November in Langford, B.C., since closing out the World Cup. The good news for Jones is that most of his players are currently active, with 66 eligible Canadians plying their trade in Major League Rugby.
The revised July schedule sees Argentina, Japan and the U.S. join Canada in travelling to the U.K. and Ireland.
England will play the U.S. Eagles on July 4 prior to facing Canada.
'The summer series will give us the chance to look at a lot of players and see how they step up, and it’s an important part of our World Cup preparation," England coach Eddie Jones said in a statement. “For younger players, it’s a chance to show what they can do at international level and how they are in the team environment.
“There aren’t too many opportunities to lead at international level, so for the more experienced players it’s a chance to take further leadership roles and grow their game in that area.
Eddie Jones called Canada a "tough, physical side."
At least 10,000 supporters will be allowed to attend the match at Twickenham Stadium.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2021.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press