RECORD HAUL: Canada's James Pritchard lines up a kick during the last Rugby World Cup, in 2011
LEEDS, 24 Sept - Canada’s record points scorer, James Pritchard, has been recalled to their Rugby World Cup squad, just 35 days after announcing his international retirement.
The veteran full-back started one of Canada’s four matches in the recent Pacific Nations Cup and did not make head coach Kieran Crowley’s original cut for the global showpiece event.
Crowley said: "It was a massive decision to leave him out. James has been an outstanding servant to Canadian rugby, the highest points scorer. As I said to him at the time, the mix (of the squad) had gone past him, but be ready."
Pritchard, 36, was called up on Thursday to replace Liam Underwood, who came off the bench in the 50-7 loss to Ireland and played for 33 minutes before picking up the knee injury which has ended his tournament.
During his three previous World Cup campaigns, Pritchard scored 45 points in nine matches and has amassed 607 points in 61 test matches overall, dating back to his debut in 2003.
Speaking to the media on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s Pool D encounter with Italy, the Kiwi head coach said Pritchard had kept himself in contention for a call-up.
"He announced his retirement but he said if the opportunity came up in the World Cup he was available, and he’s obviously been training and playing with Bedford,” said Crowley. "Now they might stop the ‘Bring back Pritch’ bandwagon that was going on."
Crowley dismissed suggestions that Pritchard’s base in southern England could have been a factor in the selection.
"If he’d been in Canada or Australia, if he’s the next best, then he’s in."
Canada will welcome back captain Tyler Ardron for his RWC debut after the Ospreys loose-forward recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of the Ireland game.
"The knee is fine. I was pretty much ready to go against Ireland (as) I’ve trained at 100 per cent for a few weeks now,” the 24-year-old said.
Pritchard, though, will have wait a few days longer for a chance to add to his record points tally, after Crowley kept faith with Matt Evans at full-back and brought in Harry Jones onto the bench as cover.
Canada face Italy at a sold-out Elland Road at 14:30 on Saturday.