It’s billed as the Probables vs the Possibles, but Simon Blanks hopes Sunday’s rugby game at the Swilers Complex in St. John’s will be more of a case of the Could-Be’s vs the Might-Be’s.
This weekend will see the selection of The Rock senior team that will open the Canadian Rugby Championship season later month. The roster for the Rock — which represents the eastern provinces — will actually be determined in two games. The first contest will be Friday, when a side made up of aspirants from Newfoundland takes on one consisting mostly of players from the rest of Eastern Canada. After that, the entire group will be divvied up again, this time into the Probables — players judged as likely to make the final cut — and the Possibles, those who probably need to make an impression in order to crack the Rock lineup.
Those sides will play Sunday afternoon, after which the team will be selected.
Blanks, who shares Rock coaching duties with Pat Parfrey, admits “you always have an idea” of how the team might look before the selection process, but wouldn’t mind if that thinking is turned upside down this weekend.
See NATIONAL TEAM COACH, page C2
“I like think everything is open,” answered Blanks when asked how many jobs were up for grabs. “We call it a Possible-Probables, but I think we have come to a point where they are all possibles.”
That will change — at least technically — with the Friday evening contest, which will be thoroughly analyzed by Blanks and Parfrey, with a good chance of input from Canadian national coach Kieran Crowley, who will be in St. John’s, to among other things, scout the Rock selection process.
“We’ll do a video analysis and produce a set of stats that we wil use (in judging the Sunday lineups),’ said Blanks.
“We’re going to be objective.”
It’s a planned process that might not have very necessary a few years ago, when there wasn’t really enough depth to provide many challenges to entrenched veterans. But Blanks says a well-established local development program — one that now stretches all the way back to the under-10 age group — is producing plenty of young players who may be ready to contribute to the Rock cause and are anxious to prove it. In fact, the 45-player total roster for the weekend consists of three worthy challengers at every position.
“It’s the first time we‘ve been in this position, so we’re going to take advantage of it and let them battle it out,” he said.
Friday’s game is 6 p.m., while Sunday’s has a 1 p.m. start time.
“That (Sunday) game could be the match of the year, with established players having to be their best and young players trying to prove they belong,” said Blanks. “You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Rosters for Friday’s Newfoundland vs Eastern Canada game, the first of two-game series being used to determine The Rock’s lineup for the first game of the 2012 Canadian Rugby Championship season against Ontario, Aug. 25 in Toronto:
Starters — Frank Walsh, Owen Parfrey, Rod Snow, Brad Lester, Oliver Van Gulick, Justin Meyers, Kevin Parfrey, Zac Coughlan, Denis Maher, Dean Blank, Kyle McGuirk, Tyler Wish, Geoff Warden, Rob Wilson, Alex Rogers
Subs — Jordan Power, Bob Rogers, Ryan Monaghan, Stefan Barter, Adam Paul, Devin Lacey, Patrick McNicholas
Eastern Canada team
Starters — Steve Cutcliffe, Benoit Piffero, Keelan Chapman, Andy Nyenhuis, Chris Mercer, Mike Hamson, Jasmin Kukavica, Kyle Baillie, Scott Forrest, Patrick Parfrey, Walker Blizzard, Llyr Morris, Morgan Lovell, Adam Pottie, Hayden Thomassin
Subs — Alex Marshall, Ted Cadigan, Brandon Dillon, Jack Thorburn, Josh Sellars, Shane Stratton, Dan Lantos, Evan Buckley
Unavailable this weekend
Chauncey OToole, Jon Phelan, Matt Heaton, Ciaran Hearn, Mike Simpson