Canada complete Rugby World Cup 2019 line-up
Canada are the 20th and final qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan after beating Hong Kong 27-10 in the final match of the repechage tournament in Marseille on Friday.
They take their place in Pool B alongside defending champions New Zealand, two-time winners South Africa, Italy and African qualifiers Namibia with their first match to be against the Azzurri in Fukuoka on 26 September, 2019.
The qualification process, which began in St Vincent and the Grenadines on 5 March, 2016, has involved 188 matches across 994 days with 10,355 points scored in total by the 71 teams who began with a dream of playing at RWC 2019 but which only USA, Uruguay, Russia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Namibia and Canada were able to realise.
Germany finished second in the repechage standings after recording a bonus-point 43-6 victory over Kenya in Friday's opening game. Hong Kong finished third with Kenya fourth.
HONG KONG 10-27 CANADA
A try in each half by DTH van der Merwe helped Canada preserve their ever-present status on the Rugby World Cup stage with a hard-fought victory over a Hong Kong side who threw everything they had at their opponents in a bid to reach their first tournament.
20 teams. We're ready to go. #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/qeUOJ3I4kc— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 23, 2018
Hong Kong knew the size of the task facing them, needing not only to beat Canada with a bonus point but also deny the Canucks a bonus point, and would have drawn confidence from the way they drove the North Americans back in the game's first scrum near halfway.
Losing centre Tyler Spitz to what looked like a hamstring injury inside three minutes was a blow for Hong Kong, but they didn't let it affect them, instead throwing everything at their more experienced opponents and taking up camp inside Canada's 22 for much of the opening 12 minutes. With the rain still pouring down they twice turned down penalties in front of the posts for scrums and won several penalties, but Canada survived the early onslaught.
That galvanised Canada and they finally got their hands on the ball, ultimately working their veteran hooker Ray Barkwill over for the opening try under the posts in the 18th minute. Hong Kong thought they had hit back and got one of the tries they needed through scrum-half Liam Slatem six minutes later, but it was ruled out by the TMO for an earlier knock-on.
Instead, it was a penalty by Matt Rosslee, who was running hard at the Canadian defence with every opportunity, who scored Hong Kong's first points just before the half-hour mark with a penalty.
Within two minutes, though, it was Rosslee's clearance kick deep in his own 22 that was charged down by Canada's record try scorer DTH van der Merwe, the winger reacting quickest to score his fourth try of the tournament after his first test hat-trick on day one against Kenya. Gordon McRorie added the conversion to make it 14-6 in Canada's favour.
McRorie then saw his first-half finish 90 seconds early after being yellow-carded by referee Romain Poite for a deliberate knock-on in his own 22. Hong Kong, though, were again unable to find a way through the Canada defence who repelled several pick and goes before winning a penalty on their own line.
Hong Kong tried to make the most of their man advantage at the start of the second half with Slatem bursting through before being stopped short and then the ball was lost forward on the left wing, but they finally found a way through after McRorie returned, winger Conor Hartley dotting down in the right corner to the delight of their vocal fans.
McRorie then missed a relatively straightforward penalty attempt but rediscovered his kicking boots in the 61st and 67th minutes to convert his next two chances to give Canada more breathing space at 20-10. That lead grew to 17 points as the match entered the final eight minutes after Van der Merwe shrugged off four tackles to score his second try, McRorie curling in the conversion from the touchline.
Canada captain Phil Mack said: "We're over the moon. Coming into this we knew it would be tough. We knew each game would be a different task. But all the support from home and the way the boys have dug in and got all the work done building up to this in the last year has been awesome. It was a super scrappy game but we are just so happy to come away with the win. We wanted to play straight away once the review from the last game was done, and get into this World Cup. Credit to the coaching staff, they came in when we were in a pretty bad spot but Kingsley (Jones) has upskilled us all and has put us in a position now where we are through to a World Cup. That goal is done but now the hard work really starts because we have got to go to a World Cup and perform. We'll enjoy this moment but then we'll have to hit the after-burners and work towards the World Cup."
Hong Kong captain James Cunningham: "It was a bit frustrating for us. Once again, like against Germany, we had opportunities but we just couldn't take them and Canada did."
KENYA 6-43 GERMANY
A hat-trick from flanker Sebastian Ferreira ensured Germany bounced back from seeing their qualification dreams ended by Canada to beat Kenya in their final match in Marseille.
Sevens star Samuel Oliech gave Kenya the perfect start with a first-minute penalty and they then withstood several minutes of pressure on their own goal-line from the powerful German pack before a knock-on allowed the Simbas to clear their lines. Germany looked set to grab the first try after a Kenya lineout was overthrown, but having generated some space with quick ball centre Hagen Schulte's was too high for winger Marcel Coetzee to gather with the try-line beckoning.
The play continued to go back and forwards with both teams struggling with their lineouts and spilling straightforward passes, until the 21st minute when a series of pick and goes created an opportunity for Germany to score the game's first try, flanker Sebastian Ferreira being driven over for a try awarded after review by the TMO. Raynor Parkinson added the conversion, but within minutes Kenya missed an opportunity to cut the deficit to one point when Oliech's penalty struck the right post and bounced into German hands.
As the clock ticked down to half-time, Kenya built some pressure on the German line but were unable to force their way through the organised defence and had to settle for a second penalty from Oliech. There was still time, though, for Germany to turn down a kick at goal and go for the corner, a decision that proved the right one when Kenya were unable to stop a powerful driving maul with hooker Kurt Haupt dotting down. Parkinson saw his conversion come back off the posts, making it 12-6 to Germany at the break.
That lead grew to 19-6 within six minutes of the restart after a storming run by Ferreira took him to within a metre of the Kenyan line and he was able to offload to his fellow flanker Jaco Otto who ran round under the posts, giving Parkinson an easy conversion and prompting chants of "Deutschland" to ring out from the German fans in the crowd.
They were on their feet again moments later when winger Steffen Liebig stripped the ball from a Kenya player and ran 60 metres to score Germany's fourth try of the game, Parkinson again adding the conversation despite the windy conditions.
A sublime kick to touch by Parkinson created Germany's fifth try just before the hour mark as the rain began to swirl around the Stade Delort, scrum-half Sean Armstrong diving on a wayward knock-down and creating an opportunity for Ferreira to be driven over for his second try to make it 31-6 to the European side.
With just over 10 minutes to go another penalty to touch provided Germany's sixth try and third for the impressive Ferreira, scored in exactly the same fashion as his others from a powerful driving maul. Parkinson once again added the conversion despite the wind. Germany looked set to add another try off a driving maul in the 75th minute but the ball was dropped over the line.
Germany did put the gloss on the victory with replacement Harris Aounallah hitting the line at pace to score the final try on full-time, although Parkinson was unable to add the conversion.
Germany captain Michael Poppmeier said: "That first half was immense, we chose to play into the wind so we put pressure on ourselves and I think we came into half-time with decent momentum. We always knew the second half was going to make the difference. [After the defeat to Canada] we said look the World Cup is out of our reach now but we are looking to finish second, and that is exactly what we did, and also try and work for a bonus point and we did that as well. We can be immensely proud of what we have done. It is very hard to get yourself psyched up for a game when you know you are not playing for anything, but it is still an international and a test match and the boys put in some massive work this week."
Kenya captain Wilson Kopondo said: "It has been a very good experience for the country, we have taken the lessons and seen the level we need to aspire too and that is what we will be working towards for the next qualifiers."