Alexis Creek’s Jake Ilnicki has been named to Team Canada’s 28-man squad for this month’s test matches against Ireland, Romania and Samoa.
The 24-year-old prop will join a team featuring a wealth of experience and a blend of youth.
“I’m very happy to be back with the group, especially with some big test matches coming up,” Ilnicki told the Tribune.
“I’m always very grateful to be selected for each tour. Each game is a chance to prove myself as a better player and to leave the jersey in a better place than I received it, since you never know when you will get a chance to wear it again.”
Ilnicki is coming off a stint with New Zealand’s Manawatu Turbos where they recently competed in the Mitre 10 Cup where the top 14 provincial rugby unions in New Zealand play in an 11-week competition stretching from August to October.
“I had a great time in Manawatu and learned lots from playing in the Mitre 10 Cup,” he said. “I’ve certainly grown a lot as a player in the past year and will be giving it all I’ve got on this tour. It’s a great opportunity for our group to get Rugby Canada back on track with some solid wins.”
Ilnicki and his Canadian teammates, ranked 18th in the world, have been training hard this week preparing for their first game of the series on Nov. 12 against sixth-ranked Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Canada will then face 16th-ranked Romania a week later in Bucharest.
Canada concludes its tour against 14-ranked Samoa on Nov. 25, in Grenoble, France.
“We know we’ve got some big games ahead of us and we’re excited for the chance to make some history with some first-ever wins for Canada over Ireland and Samoa,” he said.
“Romania has gotten the better of us the past couple games but that’s in the past. This is a hungry team with lots of talent and belief.”
Team Canada head coach Mark Anscombe echoed Ilnicki’s comments and said the coaching staff selected the best squad they could assemble.
“These games are extremely vital,” Anscombe said.
“We’re playing a tier one nation in Dublin in front of a full house and we don’t get to do that very often so it’s a great opportunity for the guys to show what they are capable of. With ranking points on the line, the other two games are critical if we want to move up in the world rankings.”
Canada last faced Ireland at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with the Irish prevailing 50-7. Canada is 0-6-1 all-time against Ireland.
At the same tournament, Canada was narrowly beaten 17-15 by Romania and has claimed victory in two of their six previous encounters.
Canada was also denied a win against Samoa last year as part of the Pacific Nations Cup as the visitors scored a last-gasp try to steal a 21-20 win at BMO Field in Toronto. Canada has never beaten Samoa in five attempts.
The November tour continues what has been a busy 2016 for Canada’s senior men’s team. After playing five games in the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, Canada played three tests against Japan, Russia and Italy as part of the RISEAsOne Summer Series.
A Canada ‘A’ team then tackled the Doncaster Knights, Ulster and the Glasgow Warriors in an August tour before playing three games as part of the Americas Pacific Challenge in Uruguay earlier this month.
– With files from Rugby Canada