The Canada Selects will see a familiar face on Saturday when they line up against Castres in an exhibition rugby game in Lacaune, France.
Canadian international winger Taylor Paris, a 25-year-old from Barrie. Ont., plays for the reigning French club champions.
Canada coach Kingsley Jones, happy to see one of his players see action at a top club, is looking to get valuable experience for his largely domestic-based squad on the two-game French tour.
“You’ve got to play against the best teams,” he said. “You want to get confidence, but also want to learn and get better. The whole thing is a great experience.”
Jones is preparing his 22nd-ranked side for a November repechage tournament in Marseille, France, that serves as a last chance to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Canada, No. 21 Hong Kong and No. 29 Germany will be joined by the second-place team from the continuing Rugby Africa Gold Cup at the repechage.
The tournament winner will slot into Pool B a t the World Cup alongside No. 1 New Zealand, No. 6 South Africa, No. 14 Italy and the Africa Gold Cup winner.
The Canadian men, who have never missed out on the World Cup, lost earlier qualifying series against the No. 15 Americans and No. 18 Uruguay.
After Castres, the Canadians face former French and European champion Clermont – once home to iconic Canadian forward Jamie Cudmore – on Aug 17. Both French sides are preparing for the Aug. 25 start of their league season.
The Canadian travelling roster contains 16 members of the match day 23 that lost 42-17 in June to the United States in Halifax last time out.
But a dozen or so top names who play professionally overseas – including stars Tyler Ardron and DTH van der Merwe – are missing, hence the use of the Canada Selects name.
Veteran centre Nick Blevins broke a bone in his foot on the eve of the tour.
Jones sees a lot of his touring side as part of the next generation.
“It wasn’t long ago that Taylor Paris etcetera was in these guys’ position,” Jones said. “We really need to grow depth. … It’s important that our domestic players really get the same experience and level of rugby as the players fortunate enough to play overseas.”
Veteran scrum half Phil Mack will captain the touring side with assistance from Lucas Rumball and Pat Parfrey.