Just 24, Taylor Paris is one of the veterans of Canada’s team at the Americas Rugby Championship.
Recovered from a serious knee injury suffered on the eve of 2015 Rugby World Cup, the speedster from Barrie, Ont., is part of gifted pool of Canadian backline talent that includes Jeff Hassler, DTH van der Merwe, Ciaran Hearn, Connor Braid, Conor Trainor and Matt Evans among others.
“If we can get everybody together, get everybody firing on the same page, I think we could have a pretty impressive backline,” Paris said.
The problem for Canadian coach Mark Anscombe is assembling them at the same time, due to injuries and club commitments.
France-based Paris (Agen) and Trainor (RC Vannes) are the only two in Anscombe’s squad for the Americas Rugby Championship, which opens Saturday when Canada faces Argentina ‘A’ at Langford, B.C.
Paris, who was part of Canada’s November tour of Europe, says Anscombe and his French coach came to an agreement that will see him get some playing time for Canada while missing just two club games.
While the tournament falls in an international window, the Canada coach has elected to save his all-points summons for key events like this summer’s World Cup qualifying matches. As such, the ARC allows him to blood new talent â€” 19 players earned their first test cap for Canada at last year’s inaugural event â€” against the likes of Argentina ‘A,’ Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and the U.S.
While Saturday’s match against Argentina does not have test status due to the South Americans fielding their second squad, it will still be valuable experience for uncapped starters Conor Keys, Robbie Povey and Carl Pocock.
Four more uncapped players will wait their turn on the bench at Westhills Stadium.
The remaining matches all have test status.
It’s a remarkably green Canadian squad Saturday. Anscombe’s starting 15 has a combined 119 caps with 78 of those belonging to Nick Blevins (37), captain Gordon McRorie (23) and Paris (18).
Paris, as shifty a back as they come, says don’t underestimate the young talent.
“This is an exciting team,” said Paris. “The ARC’s a good time to trial a lot of new young boys. Before I used to be one of the young guys on the team but I think I’m slowly working my way up with Gordie McRorie and Phil Mack (34 caps) as being one of the old dogs. At 24 I’m starting to feel old on the team because there’s 19- and 20-year-olds everywhere.”
Paris started young himself. He had just turned 18 when he made his debut for Canada in November 2010 against Belgium, becoming the youngest Canadian international ever.
He had already entered the record books at 17, becoming the youngest Canadian to play international senior men’s sevens. He scored his first try 10 seconds after coming on the field in a 26-7 victory over Argentina.
Agen is currently second in France’s second division behind Oyonnax which is home to veteran Canadian forward Jamie Cudmore. Paris is committed to helping Agen win promotion again before heading off to join Castres Olympique in the top flight next season.
Paris tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a loss to the U.S. a month before the World Cup kicked off. Amazingly he returned to action some six months after surgery. He played several games, only to injure the medial collateral ligament in his other knee in training, ending his season.
Everything is now mended. “I was surrounded by some very good people,” he said of his recovery.
Paris has missed just one game this season, due to a concussion.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press