Three games into his tenure as Canada rugby coach, Kingsley Jones can take satisfaction in seeing movement up the world rankings.
On the back of their 37-27 comeback win over No. 20 Spain on Saturday, the Canadian men rose two spots to No. 21. Canada dropped to a record low in August when it tumbled to No. 24
“We've got to keep climbing,” Jones said Friday from France. “Because really No. 24 or 23 in the world is not a true picture of where Canada should be. And I've got enough experience around the teams that are just in front of Canada to know there's so much potential (here) and it shouldn't be the case.”
The win over Spain comes after Canada lost 51-9 to the Maori All Blacks in Vancouver and 54-22 to No. 12 Georgia in Tbilisi earlier in the month.
“There's lots and lots of good stuff in that (Spain) game but we've got a lot to work on as well to beat top teams,” Jones added.
A stiff challenge awaits today in Narbonne, France, in the form of 10th-ranked Fiji.
Fourth-ranked Ireland, fielding a largely inexperienced side, needed two late penalties to defeat the Pacific Islanders 23-20 last weekend in Dublin. Before that, Fiji lost 19-10 to No. 13 Italy in Catania.
Jones has made three changes to his forward pack to face Fiji.
Jake Ilnicki comes in for Matt Tierney at prop while Benoit Piffero replaces Ray Barkwill at hooker. Kyle Gilmour takes over at No. 8 with all-time caps leader Aaron Carpenter sidelined by a head injury.
Carpenter, who has already had several concussions, returned to his club side in England.
Tierney did well against Spain but has been carrying a slight rib injury and missed some training this week, said Jones. The Canada coach said the start gives Ilnicki, who has not played much recently, a chance to improve on his performance against Georgia.
As for Barkwill, “Ray has played well but not as well as I'd like him to,” said Jones.
Plus Piffero excelled off the bench against Spain with nine tackles in 29 minutes.
A potent backline is unchanged after scoring all the points against Spain. DTH van der Merwe and Taylor Paris combined for four tries with Brock Staller kicking 17 points.
Fiji, known both for its physicality and flair, has won eight of 12 meetings with Canada.
“They're a quality side full of quality individuals,” said Jones, a former Welsh international and captain.
“We have to match them physically and we have to play the game at tempo with pace,” he added.
Hubert Buydens, New Orleans Gold (U.S.), Saskatoon; Benoit Piffero, Blagnac Sporting Club (France), Montreal; Jake Ilnicki, Newcastle Falcons (England), Williams Lake, B.C.; Josh Larsen, Northland (New Zealand), Parksville, B.C.; Evan Olmstead, Newcastle Falcons (England), Vancouver; Kyle Baillie, London Scottish (England), Summerside, P.E.I.; Matt Heaton, Darlington Mowden Park (England), Godmanchester, Que.; Kyle Gilmour, St. Albert RFC, St. Albert, Alta.; Phil Mack (capt.), James Bay AA, Victoria; Patrick Parfrey, Swilers RFC, St. John's, N.L.; Taylor Paris, Castres (France), Barrie, Ont.; Ciaran Hearn, London Irish (England), Conception Bay South, N.L.; DTH van der Merwe, Newcastle Falcons England), Victoria; Brock Staller, Meralomas RFC, Surrey, B.C.; Andrew Coe, Markham Irish, Toronto.