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Canadian rugby team calls in reinforcements for Uruguay match

In order to get to Uruguay for Canada’s rugby match, Brett Beukeboom, top right, took a six-hour train ride to London before a flight to Miami and finally a connection to Montevideo – a trip that took about 40 hours from door to door.

Andrew Boyers/REUTERS

Brett Beukeboom didn't think twice about swapping English rain for Uruguay's sun and humidity.

After helping his rugby club to a league victory last weekend, the Canadian took an eight-hour bus ride home from Leeds to the town of Penzance in southwest England.

Beukeboom barely had a chance to unwind when he got a call from men's national team head coach Mark Anscombe. Canada had just lost to the United States in Americas Rugby Championships play and was facing a number of injuries.

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Despite knowing the travel nightmare ahead of him with the next tournament game set for Uruguay, Beukeboom bolted for the airport without hesitation.

"Any chance to be with the national team is a great honour," he said Friday from Montevideo. "To be called in was something I couldn't turn down."

The 26-year-old from Lindsay, Ont., will earn his 23rd test cap Saturday as one of five changes to the starting lineup when Canada visits Uruguay in its fourth of five ARC matches.

Beukeboom's South American odyssey started with a six-hour train ride to London before a flight to Miami and finally a connection to Montevideo – a trip that took about 40 hours from door to door.

"It was a long couple days," said Beukeboom, the nephew of former NHL defenceman Jeff Beukeboom. "But to trade the rainy days in England for Uruguay is pretty nice."

Ranked 20th in the world, the Canadians (1-2) played their first three tournament games on home soil. They lost to Argentina's second-tier side 20-6 on a snowy pitch in Langford, B.C., before downing No. 30 Chile 36-15 on the same field.

The 17th-ranked Americans then thumped Canada 51-34 last weekend in soggy Burnaby, B.C.

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The Canadians called up a relatively inexperienced squad for the event with an eye on development ahead of two crucial World Cup qualifiers against the U.S. later this year.

Most of the country's top internationals aren't with the team, but Beukeboom said there's plenty of promise in the current group.

"We have some exciting young players," said Beukeboom, a lock for the Cornish Pirates in the second-tier English Championship. "Playing rugby for the full 80 minutes is where we seem to be lacking."

Anscombe has been troubled by his team's slow starts – the United States led 15-0 after just 11 minutes – and was left seething by a number of sloppy lineouts against the Americans.

"Getting [Beukeboom] down here certainly has helped," Anscombe said. "Getting some knowledge, some seniority, some leadership in that area … we're confident that will make a difference."

Conor Trainor is also back and will start against Uruguay. He replaces Taylor Paris, a back who scored five combined tries over the past two games, but has since been returned to his French club.

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"He's a class footballer," Anscombe said of Trainor, who also plays in France. "We've lost Paris, but we've replaced him with another good one.

"Hopefully we can give him the opportunity to show what he can do."

The U.S. and Argentina 'A' are both 3-0 and appear to be on a collision course for tournament honours when they meet March 4.

Uruguay, ranked 23rd, opened with a 29-23 loss to the Americans and a 57-12 blowout defeat to Argentina before getting in the win column with a 23-12 victory over No. 33 Brazil.

Canada is 8-1 all-time against Uruguay, including a 33-17 victory at last year's ARC.

"They're improving," said Anscombe, whose team visits Brazil to conclude its schedule March 3. "They've been competitive in all their games. They've got a strong forward pack. That's what they base their game around.

"With our young players, our challenge is going to be how to handle that and be able to play our game."

Gordon McRorie returns to Canada's starting lineup as captain, while Clay Panga will make his first tournament appearance at flanker. Kainoa Lloyd also draws in for what will be his test debut on the wing.

There could also be a sibling connection on the field.

Matt Beukeboom, Brett's 19-year-old brother, has been named to the Canadian bench after making his test debut against Chile two weeks ago.

"It'll be the first time we've every played together, if we do," said Brett Beukeboom, who left home at 16 to pursue rugby. "It's pretty exciting to have two members of the family in the national team."

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