Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aussie-Born Fullback James Pritchard Set to Make Canadian Rugby History

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aussie-Born Fullback James Pritchard Set to Make Canadian Rugby History

Article excerpt

Pritchard set to make Canadian rugby history


KINGSTON, Ont. - The scar on the inside of James Pritchard's forearm is hard to miss, the remnant of a broken arm suffered playing for his English club side.

The Australian-born Canadian international fullback was hurt in a March 2 loss to Bristol in the second-tier English Championship. He played the full game for the Bedford Blues but was taken to hospital afterwards where the Blues captain was diagnosed with a broken radius bone, requiring surgery to insert a plate.

Prior to Saturday's Test match against Tonga, Pritchard's comeback had consisted of 20 minutes with Bedford.

"It's just a joy to get back out on the field," he said.

The happiness was shared by more than a few Canadians as Pritchard scored a try and added 18 more points with his boot to help Canada defeat an ill-disciplined Tonga 36-27 in IRB Pacific Nations Cup play on a grey, occasionally rainy day at Richardson Stadium.

Elite goal-kickers are a must in international rugby with teams looking to punish opposition mistakes. Pritchard is such a kicker -- he was good on all seven of his kicks Saturday: four penalties and three conversions.

Fortunately for Canada, Pritchard was able to practise his kicking for much of his convalescence. After four weeks with his arm in a sling, kicking was about the only thing he could do with a rugby ball.

Pritchard, who turns 34 in July, qualifies to play for Canada by virtue of his Saskatchewan-born grandfather. His great-grandfather had come to Canada from the United Kingdom to work on a farm just outside Regina.

When he first approached then Canadian coach David Clark to inform him of those bloodlines, his goal was to make the 2003 World Cup in his adopted country. Now, he hopes to make the 2015 World Cup in his adopted home of England.

And he is poised to make Canadian rugby history along the way.

His 23-point haul against Tonga increased his Canadian total to 485, just six shy of Gareth Rees' national record of 491.

Pritchard downplays the record, admitting only that it might be nice to reflect on once his playing career is over.

"You don't look for personal accolades in a team sport like rugby," Pritchard said.

His try Saturday was also the 14th of his Canadian career, moving him past Morgan Williams into sole possession of second place behind Winston Stanley (24).

Pritchard has called Rees "Canada's greatest all-time player." Rees, now manager of the national men's program, calls Pritchard a fine striker of the ball and "an excellent Canadian servant over his time.

"If any record's going to fall, he's a good man and he's done a lot for the (Canadian) team," Rees said last year. …

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