TORONTO — Spain has replaced the French Barbarians as Canada's opponent in a men's rugby match July 10 at Ottawa's TD Place.
"We had an agreement from the French Barbarians that they would be travelling for a two-match tour this July to the U.S.A., and Canada," Jamie Levchuk, Rugby Canada's interim CEO and managing director of revenue and fan engagement, said in a statement. "We apologize to those fans that purchased pre-sale tickets and will honour full refunds."
Canada had originally been due to face the French all-star side in July 2020 at Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard in Montreal. But the North American tour was called off due to the pandemic.
That game would have been the first-ever rugby international in Montreal.
The French Barbarians are going ahead with a July 1 game against the U.S. in Houston.
The 21st-ranked Canadians are scheduled to play No. 27 Belgium on July 2 at the Wanderers Grounds in Halifax.
Spain is coming off a 33-28 win over No. 20 Portugal and a 49-15 loss to No. 12 Georgia in March.
In April, the Spanish men lost their spot at next year's Rugby World Cup in France for fielding an ineligible player. Spain was going to make its second World Cup appearance — and first since 1999.
Now like Canada, which failed to qualify for the first time in the tournament's history, it will be a spectator.
It marks the second straight World Cup qualifying campaign that has seen Spain become embroiled in controversy. In 2018, Spain, Romania and Belgium were sanctioned for fielding ineligible players and Russia advanced to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The Canadian men have not played since November, when they beat Belgium 24-0 in Brussels and lost 20-17 to Portugal in Lisbon. Coach Kingsley Jones' team is 3-5-0 since the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
In other news Thursday, Canadians Julianne Zussman and Chris Assmus were included among the 18 match officials for the women's World Cup later this year in New Zealand.
Zussman, a former Canadian international who took part in three World Cups, made her test debut as a referee in November 2021.
Zussman, who also worked the Tokyo Olympics and the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2019-20 and 2021-22, will be an assistant referee in New Zealand.
Assmus is a current Major League Rugby match official. He refereed his first test match in 2013 between Uruguay and Spain, and is currently a part-time referee development officer with B.C. Rugby.
Assmus has been appointed as a television match official for the World Cup.
World Rugby named an all-female team of referees for the tournament with the 18 officials — nine referees, five assistant referees and four television match officials — selected from 11 unions.
Following its postponement from 2021, the 12-team women's World Cup will kick off Oct. 8 at Auckland’s Eden Park.
The third-ranked Canadian women have been drawn in Group B with No. 5 Italy, the seventh-ranked U.S., and No. 12 Japan.
Rugby World Cup officials
Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Maggie Cogger-Orr (New Zealand), Sara Cox (England), Hollie Davidson (Scotland), Aurélie Groizeleau (France), Lauren Jenner (New Zealand), Clara Munarini (Italy), Amber McLachlan (Australia), Joy Neville (Ireland).
Doriane Domenjo (France), Tyler Miller (Australia), Nikki O’Donnell (England), Kat Roche (U.S.), Julianne Zussman (Canada).
Television Match Officials
Chris Assmus (Canada), Lee Jeffrey (New Zealand), Ian Tempest (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
The Canadian Press