TORONTO — A rib cartilage injury has forced tighthead prop Jason Marshall to drop out of Canada’s Rugby World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament.
The 30-year-old from North Vancouver was hurt in Canada’s final warmup game, a 47-18 loss to Fiji last Sunday in England. It was Marshall’s first game back from a knee injury.
“Rugby is a cruel sport,” Marshall tweeted. “Toughest thing watching the bus pull away without me. Best of luck to the @Rugby Canada boys. I’ll be cheering.”
His initial injury return had looked to be a good news story.
“We had managed him pretty carefully and got him right,” Canadian coach Kieran Crowley said from Swansea, Wales. “And then unfortunately this happened in the (Fiji) game. It’s very unfortunate for him.”
Canada, ranked 18th in the world, opens its World Cup campaign on Sept. 19 against No. 6 Ireland in Cardiff.
Jake Ilnicki of Williams Lake, B.C., will replace Marshall on Canada’s 31-man tournament roster. The 23-year-old was already with the team, having been called in from Australia where he was playing club rugby to provide cover during the tournament warmup with prop Doug Wooldridge suffering a concussion.
Ilnicki started on the bench for the Fiji game.
Teams have to have four props in their matchday 23 under international rules. Canada has five props in total in its revamped World Cup roster: Hubert Buydens, Djustice Sears-Duru, Andrew Tiedemann, Wooldridge and Ilnicki.
Rugby Canada officials were going through the paperwork Thursday to make the Marshall-Ilnicki switch official.
Crowley said Marshall’s rib injury will take four to six weeks to heal. Canada’s last pool game against Romania on Oct. 6 is in less than four weeks.
Marshall, a veteran of 31 internationals who started all four of Canada’s games at the 2011 World Cup, is the latest hard-luck story for the Canadians.
Winger Taylor Paris failed to make the roster after injuring his knee in Canada’s 41-23 loss to the U.S. on Aug. 22 in Ottawa. He had fought his way back from a knee injury.
The 22-year-old from Barrie, Ont., was on crutches when the World Cup roster was announced two days later at a fundraising dinner in Toronto.
“It’s unfortunate for both guys because they worked so hard to get here,” said Crowley.
Marshall, a former quarterback at Simon Fraser University, and Paris both helped Agen win promotion to France’s top tier next season.
Crowley has some other injury concerns. Captain/No. 8 Tyler Ardron has not played since injuring his knee July 29 against Samoa in the Pacific Nations Cup in Toronto.
“We’re hopeful that he will be available for the first (tournament) game.” the coach said.
Fullback Harry Jones is coming back from a shoulder injury suffered in the Fiji game.
World Cup teams can replace injured players but the replacement must be named at least 48 hours before the game. Once replaced, an injured player is out for the whole tournament.
Canada isn’t the only team to lose players just days before the start of the competition.
Wales, for example, has lost two key players in fullback Leigh Halfpenny, one of the sport’s best kickers, and scrum half Rhys Webb.
Italy has lost centre Luca Morisi to injury and is waiting word on the fitness of captain Sergio Parisse, the team’s talisman.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press