Canada begin World Cup preparations
May 19, 2007
Canada take their first step on a four-month journey to the World Cup tonight when they tackle Ireland A in the Barclays Churchill Cup.
The North Americans' opening World Cup fixture in September is against Wales in Nantes and Ric Suggitt's mix of professionals and part-timers are determinedto maximise their preparation.
The squad only came together in Exeter on Monday but they will be in camp for most of the next four months to ensure they are in prime shape to tackle the Welsh.
Captain Morgan Williams said: ``We will be a much stronger team when we play Wales at the World Cup than we were against them last November (when they lost 61-26).
''We scored nearly 30 points against them and were pretty happy at that but there were a few defensive lapses which we are working hard on. When the World Cup comes we will be a better oiled team.
''It really helps our organisation that we will be together in camp for the next few months.
``These games are great to get some experience, start new systems and get things going.''
It is usually impossible for Suggitt to call on all his players at the same time given seven the starting side playing tonight are amateurs and the rest have professional commitments in Europe.
Ireland A have included Wasps pair Jeremy Staunton and Jonny O'Connor, who were released to play after failing to make the Heineken Cup final squad.
And O'Connor has his sights set on the World Cup just a year after his entire career was thrown into doubt by a serious injury.
The Wasps flanker suffered spinal concussion in the first minute of the 2006 EDF Energy Cup final against the Llanelli Scarlets and spent over six months on the sidelines.
The battle back was as much mental as it was physical - but O'Connor featured for Wasps during in the second half of the season and is looking forward to getting stuck in at Exeter's Sandy Park.
''I am looking forward to playing. It gives me a real focus to get a run of games together so hopefully I can get some form going and finish the season happily,'' said O'Connor.
''I had a serious injury and nearly had to retire from the game - I don't think a lot of people realise that - and only got back playing at Christmas.''
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches