Failing to qualify for Rugby’s World Cup in 2023 for the first time ever has Rugby Canada’s men’s 15s squad in a state of change.
And that’s good news for Coldstream’s Isaac (Ike) Olson.
The Fulton Maroons graduate is among the players chosen for a two-game European tour this month by head coach Kingsley Jones. Canada, ranked No. 23 in the world, will face Portugal in Lisbon Saturday, Nov. 6, and Belgium in Brussels Saturday, Nov. 13.
Portugal is ranked 19th in the world and Belgium is ranked No. 28.
The Canadian men lost the World Cup qualifying series against the 17th-ranked Americans (59-50 on aggregate) and No. 26 Chile (54-46 on aggregate) and will now be a spectator at France 2023 after qualifying for all nine previous events.
Olson, who played for Canada in a pair of exhibition losses to Wales and England in Europe in the summer, was not on the roster for the two-game series against Chile.
Players selected for the games against Portugal and Belgium include a number of familiar faces from Canada’s most recent matches. Jones has also said that several of the squad’s younger talent will feature in the team’s upcoming matches, including Olson.
“We’re excited about the selections for November,” said Jones to Rugby Canada. “We’re excited to continue on with some continuity and cohesion. It’s largely a young team, which is what we’ve been working with. There will be opportunities for select players to get some starts.”
Both Portugal and Belgium will provide Canada with stiff competition, a needed component for Canada’s continued development as a team.
“We can’t wait to get back on the field and pit ourselves against a team ranked in the Top-20 in the world,” said Jones. “Portugal are currently ranked No. 19 in World Rankings and are in the driver’s seat to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023 as European Nations #2.”
Olson is one of 28 players selected for the 15s tour, and is one of four players added from Canada’s Men’s 7s squad.
Jake Ilnicki from Williams Lake is also among the players selected. He and Olson are the only players selected from B.C.’s Interior region.