Canada’s Robbie Povey (pictured making a diving tackle) will complete his meteoric rise from the fifth tier of English club rugby to international No.10 in less than six months when he runs out at the Swanguard Stadium in Burnaby on Saturday.
Povey made his test debut as a replacement in last weekend’s 36-15 win over Chile and showed enough promise to earn a start against Canada’s arch rivals, the USA, in the third round of the Americas Rugby Championship.
A former pupil of Rugby School and educated at Oxford Brookes University, Povey started the season playing his club rugby for Bedford Athletic. While Bedford has strong links with Canadian rugby through all-time record points-scorer James Pritchard and the late, great Norm Hadley, both played for the town’s premier club, Bedford Blues, not their lowly neighbours.
Despite operating under the radar, Povey came to Canada’s attention when his father, Colin, a former Great Britain Water Polo international, put in a phone call informing the Canucks of his eligibility through his Montreal-born mother.
“I went to Canada one summer on a school rugby tour and, on the back of my dad getting in touch, they sent someone to watch me play. Thankfully, they liked what they saw,” Povey said.
The 20-year-old has gone through the Canada under-20 and A teams to get where he is today, experiencing men’s international rugby for the first time in October, at the World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge.
“The intensity and pace of the first game against Argentina XV was unreal. I thought I was fit but I was absolutely shattered after just 20 minutes off the bench,” he remarked.
Had he not gone on a school cricket tour to India at the same time as England age-grade trials were taking place, Povey may well have trodden a different path. But he has no regrets about having a maple leaf instead of a red rose on his chest.
“Getting the chance to play international rugby is not something you want to pass up, so it was never really a factor,” he said.
“My uncle still lives out in Ontario, and when we were younger we’d spent three to four weeks of the summer holidaying in a lakeside cottage with all my cousins. I only associate good things with Canada and I feel a massive part of the squad.”
In a game that Canada need to win to offset any chance of them falling to 20th in the World Rugby Rankings, Povey has the hugely experienced Phil Mack by his side at half-back.
They are two of the five changes made to the starting line-up by head coach Mark Anscombe, with Ray Barkwill coming into the side as captain and hooker and Rob Brouwer and Reegan O’Gorman selected at prop and lock respectively.
EAGLES BOX CLEVER
Canada head into Saturday’s game with a 38-16-1 head-to-head record against their rivals south of the border. However, the USA has won the last five match-ups, including last year’s 30-22 victory in Texas.
USA, who sit joint top of the standings with Argentina XV after victories over Uruguay and Brazil in the first two rounds, have recalled captain Todd Clever in a side showing half-a-dozen changes. Clever scored one of the fastest hat-tricks in test rugby in last year’s corresponding fixture.
As well as boosting their bid to go one better than last year’s second-place finish in the ARC, a sixth straight victory over Canada will improve the Eagles’ ranking by at least 1.2 points. If accompanied by a defeat for Romania at home to Spain in the Rugby Europe Championship, a winning USA will move up to 16th place at the Oaks’ expense.
WORLD CUP EXPERIENCE
The other game to count towards the rankings sees Uruguay take on Brazil in Maldonado.
Rugby World Cup 2015 skipper Juan Manuel Gaminara (pictured) has recovered from injury to lead a Los Teros side looking to bounce back from its 57-12 round two defeat at the hands of Argentina XV in Bahía Blanca.
Gaminara is one of four RWC 2015 starters back to bolster the side this week, three of whom will be making their first international appearances of 2017.
Mario Sagario returns at tight-head prop, while Andrés Vilaseca replaces Juan de Freitas in the midfield and Leandro Leivas takes the place of Nicholas Freitas on the right wing. The only other change to the starting line-up sees Diego Ayala restored to the second row.
For Brazil, veteran hooker Daniel Danielewicz starts for the first time in this year’s tournament, while replacements Endy Willian, Matheus Rocha and Ariel Brisola are in line to make their test debuts.
Due to the 11-place differential between themselves and Brazil, Los Teros will not pick up any rating points in victory, whatever the margin. Brazil, however, can climb by as many as four places to 30th if they win by more than 15 points and other results go their way.
ARGENTINA XV CALL ON RIO TRIO
In the remaining game, Argentina XV have named Olympians Santiago Álvarez, Germán Schulz (pictured) and full-back Fernando Luna in their back line for the trip to bottom-ranked Chile. There are only three survivors from last week's win over Uruguay.
Los Condores head coach Bernard Charreyre has selected two sets of brothers, Martin and Rodrigo Fernandez and Juan Pablo and José Ignacio Larenas, in a 23-man squad showing eight changes to the one beaten by Canada. The latter of the Larenas brothers is named as captain.
With Charreyre away on Suamerica Rugby Women's Sevens duty in Argentina, assistants Mark Cross and Raúl Marín will take charge of team affairs.
CLICK HERE FOR RESULTS & FIXTURES
2017 Americas Rugby Championship Standings (after two rounds):
1. Argentina – 9 points
2. USA – 9 points
3. Canada – 5 points
4. Brazil – 4 points
5. Uruguay – 1 point
6. Chile – 0 points
Main photo cedit: Ian Muir
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