Rugby World Cup: James Pritchard back on Canadian team

Five weeks after announcing his international retirement, James Pritchard is back on Canada's squad after accepting a call-up to the Rugby World Cup as an injury replacement.

36-year-old fullback replaces injured Underwood

The retirement of Canada's James Pritchard, right, lasted just 35 days. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

James Pritchard, Canada's all-time leading scorer, is going to take part in his fourth Rugby World Cup after all.

The 36-year-old Australian-born fullback was not part of Canada's original 31-man roster. But he was added to the squad Thursday to replace Liam Underwood, who suffered a knee injury in Canada's opening 50-7 loss to Ireland on the weekend.

Underwood will miss the rest of the tournament.

"It's unfortunate for Liam to not be able to finish this World Cup as he is a versatile player for us, having the ability to play 10 and 15 [fly half and fullback] and his goal-kicking abilities," Canadian coach Kieran Crowley said in a statement.

"We've been in discussion with James over the last month and he obviously brings a level of experience to the team and he can play a number of positions if called upon."

Canada, ranked 18th in the world, plays No. 15 Italy on Saturday in Leeds, England. Pritchard does not figure in Canada's matchday 23.

Matt Evans and Harry Jones had been looking after fullback. But with Underwood gone, they will provide cover for fly half Nathan Hirayama, along with Connor Braid.

Pritchard, a versatile veteran who plays his club rugby for Bedford Blues in England, retired from international play soon after the original roster decision was made. But the retirement lasted just 35 days.

"I honestly thought retirement would of lasted longer than 35 days. Great to be back though," he tweeted.

"I'm incredibly excited to play in my fourth World Cup for Canada," Pritchard added in a statement. "To represent your country on the biggest stage in the world is the goal of every rugby player. It's unfortunate that it comes at the expense of Liam, who I wish a quick recovery."

The injury to Underwood comes after the 24-year-old from Toronto battled his way back from a concussion.

Pritchard has 61 caps and 607 points from 18 tries, 104 conversions and 103 penalties, dating back to his debut in 2003. He became the 20th player in test history to score 600 or more points July in Canada's loss to Samoa at the Pacific Nations Cup in Toronto.

He is eligible to play for Canada thanks to his Saskatchewan-born grandfather, whose father came to Canada from the United Kingdom to work on a farm just outside Regina.

In having four World Cups on his resume, Pritchard joins an elite group in fellow Canadians Gareth Rees, Al Charron, Rod Snow, Dave Lougheed, Jamie Cudmore and Mike James.


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