Written by Joe Harvey | Photo by Davey Wilson
When Canada were beaten by the USA in Denver just over three weeks ago, it made the team’s road to reaching the Rugby World Cup a little harder.
Having beaten the Eagles in Newfoundland the weekend prior, the 38-16 a weekend later meant a 59-50 aggregate loss and a two-leg encounter with Chile at the start of October.
A win across these two games is vital in order to progress to the Americas 2 Qualifier, where the team will face either the USA or Uruguay, depending on who loses those two encounters.
In contrast, the USA Eagles’ path is much clearer, with back-to-back aggregate victory meaning automatic qualification for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Canada host Chile this weekend in Langford and Houston SaberCats’ fly-half Robbie Povey spoke to majorleague.rugby about the importance of the next two weeks and the development of Kingsley Jones’ Canada.
BUILDING ON PRIOR EXPERIENCE
Losing on aggregate to Gary Gold’s USA would have no doubt been a bitter pill to swallow for the Canadians.
Beating their North American rivals for the first time in eight years in the first leg, going into the second encounter with a 13-point advantage, the Eagles made seven changes for the second game, eventually winning the two clashes with an advantage of nine.
Now, with their games against Chile approaching, Povey is hopeful that he and his international colleagues can learn from the dismay of their last game.
“I think we weathered the storm pretty well for the first 20 minutes (in Denver) and then after that we let the game get away from us,” Povey told MLR.
“We were quite sloppy, didn’t take our opportunities and failed to execute under pressure, especially when the States were playing quite well, so that was really disappointing from our end.
“We are hoping to take those learnings into the next few games and make sure that when we get another opportunity like that, we learn the lessons and get the job done next time.”
HIS INTERNATIONAL COMEBACK
When Robbie Povey took to the field against Wales at the start of the July, it brought a three year wait for his fifth cap to an end.
Having won his first cap against Chile in 2017, it was only after a full season in MLR that the 25-year-old was offered another chance at international rugby.
Photo by Brian Jackson
“I was playing a decent level back in England, but you don’t get the same opportunities (as playing in MLR),” Povey said. “It was hard to be involved in games when Canada coaches are overseas and thinking about other games more.
“I can send all the footage I can but playing in MLR and being able to play every week, getting regular rugby after Covid, was really enjoyable.”
Born and raised in England, Povey qualifies for Canada through his Montreal-born mother, his career so far seeing him represent the Prairie Wolf Pack in the Canadian Rugby Championship, Coventry in the England Premiership, Sale FC in National One, as well as the senior academy sides of English Premiership sides Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers.
Moving to Utah Warriors for the 2020 season, Povey played in four games before the league season was called off as a result of Covid-19.
Playing 12 games for Houston SaberCats in 2021, after being traded to the AVEVA Stadium during the offseason for draft capital, Povey was often in competition with all-time MLR points scorer Sam Windsor to start in the fly-half jersey.
Photo by Davey Wilson
As it went, the two would often combine from the start, Povey says that the competition at club level helped push him on a weekly basis to improve.
“You always want people around that are going to push you and help make you a better player,” Povey said on his relationship with Windsor. “Obviously I knew about Sam before I came over, with what he has done in the league and what a good player he is.
“Having Sam challenge me and getting different thoughts on different aspects of the game, and how it ended up with us both playing, it was a really positive experience.”
THE ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
Currently at Bear Mountain resort in Victoria, British Columbia, Povey and his teammates are training hard in order to realize their Rugby World Cup dreams.
It is on the whole a largely new group of players that Kingsley Jones has at his disposal, with 14 players having been capped since the start of July alone.
“There are so many young guys, I have just turned 25 and I am almost one of the older ones out of half of the guys here,” Povey said. It is great to have that youth and enthusiasm and guys wanting to learn and get better.
“Having that energy on and off the field makes for a really good team environment that you want to be a part of; you want to contribute and you want to take it as far as you can.”
Developing with every training session and every game alongside one another, Povey says that he and his Canada teammates need to focus on everything they have been working on in camp in order to be successful in these next two weeks against Chile.
“We have spoken a lot about trust and taking the responsibility and accountability within yourself to make sure that we stick to our processes, stick to our systems and don’t start double guessing ourselves,” Povey explained.
“I think if we really stick to that and our processes, we have got the ability to play some really good rugby, which we have definitely seen at times in our past few games.
“It is a matter of making sure that we play that good rugby more regularly. I think that if we can do that, then hopefully we can put a good couple of performances on the pitch.”
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