VANCOUVER – The term Test match is fitting for both Canada and Georgia as they prepare for an international rugby contest Saturday.
World rankings will be on the line, but Canadian coach Kieran Crowley and Georgia counterpart Milton Haig said Wednesday they are looking at the game more for development purposes.
Both coaches intend to use the game in Burnaby, B.C., as a means of evaluating young talent for future major international competitions.
The game is the third of a three-game Test series that has included Italy and U.S., with the other international clubs playing each other in North America. It’s one last chance for the Canadian squad to improve its game before players head to their club teams inland overseas until their next international get-together.
“They’re important to our team’s development because they give our guys a chance to play at this level,” said Crowley of the Test matches. “We don’t get many chances in the year to do this. It’s very important that you have guys that can raise their standards and come to understand what’s needed. When you come to World Cup qualifiers, etc., and those sorts of games, you’re a little bit more conditioned to what’s expected and what’s needed.”
Canada is looking for its second win after falling 25-16 to the Italians in Toronto last week. The Canadians opened with a 28-25 decision over the U.S. on June 9 in Kingston, Ont.
Canada, ranked 13th, has slightly more to lose than Georgia, which fell one spot to 15th following a recent loss to the U.S.
Crowley has introduced six players to international rugby for the first time during the series. Tyler Ardron, a 21-year-old flanker from Lakefield, Ont., is among those who have caught the coach’s eye.
Canada has also battled injuries, losing prop Hubert Buydens to a broken leg in the game against Italy.
Georgia is also using a revamped roster. Haig, a New Zealander who took the reins last December after the Georgian rugby federation approached its New Zealand counterpart for recruiting assistance, said about half his players are new to the squad.
“The team has a lot of young players, and for them it’s a fantastic experience,” Georgia captain Irakli Abuseridze, a 12-year veteran who will suit up for his 82nd international cap, said through an interpreter. “They have a lot of potential. From this game, they will take a lot of experience and it will be very good for them for later years.”
Mamuka Gorgodze, Georgia’s best known player, is among those who have stayed home. The back-row forward, known as “Gorgodzilla” and “Gulliver” because of his large six-foot-five and 260-pound frame, is resting after a long club season with Montpelier of France.
Despite Gorgodze’s absence, both squads expect the game to be an intense physical affair. Georgian captain Abuseridze said Canada will provide a positive development opportunity for his squad.
“Canada is one of the best teams in the world, and it’s not every day you can meet them and practise and have a game with a team like Canada,” said Abuseridze.
Canadian coach Crowley wants his squad to perform better on set pieces than it did against Italy, while Haig is looking for an overall better effort than his club produced in the loss to the U.S.
“We didn’t play well last week against the United States,” he said. “So we threw down a challenge to (the players) after that. We’ve got 80 minutes before we go home that we can right that, really. Hopefully, we can front up physically. We know that Canada is going to be an even bigger challenge than the States was.”