Canadian national senior men's coach Kieran Crowley has made some necessary changes to the 2011 Churchill Cup squad prior to the team's departure for England this weekend.
In the pack, an injury to Sean Michael Stephen and the uncertainty of Jamie Cudmore's availability means B.C.'s Mitch Gudgeon, the single-capped loose forward with sevens experience has been brought into the fold.
"He can play (as a loose forward) and a lock as well so we brought him in," Crowley said. "He's shown a lot of development."
Crowley said he expected the current sevens player to bring a value to the pack through his ability to move quickly around the pack and work well under the high ball.
"He's got very good aerial skills," he said. "He has a bit more height and brings a lot more mobility across the paddock."
While in the backs, Crowley has added Ontario's Mike Scholz.
"He certainly handles the physicality of the game," Crowley said of Sholz. "He's very good on his feet, he has the ability to beat people. He's worked hard to get stronger and faster."
Scholz toured with Canadian 15s team in 2009 before a lengthy break due to shoulder surgery. He returned to the pitch in January and is currently touring with the Canadian national sevens team, who are in Scotland ahead of this weekend's Edinburgh Sevens tournament.
Crowley believes both players will be a welcome addition to the squad and said expanding the talent pool in Rugby World Cup year is also a factor in decision making.
"You've always got to have a good player pool," he said. "These newer guys will put pressure on the incumbents and when you have that, the performance levels improve."
As the preliminary Rugby World Cup squad announcement must be made June 17, the Churchill Cup is the last kick at the can for players hoping to book their ticket to the big show.
"Obviously there's a few players that if they have reasonable performances, they will be going," Crowley said. "But the way I look at it, there's at least eight or nine spots that are still open."
The team leaves for England on May 29 .
Churchill Cup Schedule
Saturday June 4 - Franklin Gardens - Northampton
Canada vs Italy A
USA vs England Saxons
Wednesday June 8 - Esher RFC - Moseley
USA vs Tonga
Canada vs Russia
Sunday June 12 - Kingsholm - Gloucester
Russia vs Italy A
Tonga vs Saxons
Saturday June 18 - Sixways Stadium - Leeds
1st vs 1st
2nd vs 2nd
3rd vs 3rd
The Churchill Cup is a tournament jointly owned by the English Rugby Football Union, U.S.A. Rugby and Rugby Canada. Started in 2003 in Vancouver, B.C., the early tournament also featured a women's competition. Over the years it has been played in the U.S.A., Canada and England - with the three partner nations welcoming in a host of competitors from the New Zealand Maori, Ireland A, Russia and this year Italy A and Tonga as first-year attendees.
Canada is currently ranked 15th in the International Rugby Board rankings and following the Churchill Cup tournament has a pair of test matches against the U.S.A. (currently ranked 16th). The first, on August 6 at BMO Field in Toronto, will be the first time international rugby is played at the 20,000-seat soccer facility. That match is followed on August 13 with the return leg in Denver, Colorado. Both games will count toward World Ranking points prior to the Rugby World Cup in September.
Pat Riordan (British Columbia/White Rock, BC)
Ryan Hamilton (British Columbia/ Vancouver, BC)
Scott Franklin (Prairie Wolf Pack/Regina, SK)
Hubert Buydens (Prairie Wolf Pack/Regina, SK)
Andrew Tiedemann (Prairie Wolf Pack/St. Albert, AB)
Jason Marshall (British Columbia/Vancouver, BC)
Tom Dolezel (Prairie Wolf Pack/London, ON)
Tyler Hoston (Plymouth Albion/Vancouver, BC)
Brian Erichsen (British Columbia/Vancouver, BC)
Jamie Cudmore (Clermont Ferrand/Squamish, BC)
Mitch Gudgeon (BC Bears, Victoria, BC)
Jebb Sinclair (The Rock/Fredericton, NB)
Nanyak Dala (Prairie Wolf Pack/Saskatoon, SK)
Chauncey O'Toole (The Rock/Belle Isle, NB)
Aaron Carpenter (Plymouth Albion/Brantford, ON)
Sean White (British Columbia/Victoria, BC)
Ed Fairhurst (British Columbia, Victoria, BC)
Nathan Hirayama (British Columbia/Richmond, BC)
Ander Monro (Ontario Blues/Victoria, BC)
Ryan Smith (Prairie Wolf Pack/Calgary, AB)
Conor Trainor (British Columbia/Victoria, BC)
Phil Mackenzie (Esher RFC/Oakville, ON)
Mike Scholz (Ontario Blues, Oakville, ON)
Justin Mensah-Coker (British Columbia/Vancouver, BC)
Ciaran Hearn (The Rock/Conception Bay, NFLD)
James Pritchard (Bedford RFC, Parkes Australia)
Matt Evans (Newport Gwent Dragon/Duncan, BC)
Adam Kleeberger (Inj) - flanker
Stan McKeen (Exams) - flanker
DTH van der Merwe (Inj) - wing/centre
Sean Michael Stephen (Inj) - flanker