29 Nov 2021 | 10:48
Speaking from Lisbon, Portugal, lock forward Kyle Baillie spoke to majorleague.rugby about his country’s failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, his hopes for games against Portugal and his recent trade to the Toronto Arrows.
CANADA’S FALL CAMPAIGN
It was four weeks ago that Canada’s campaign to reach the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France came to an end. Losing over two legs against Chile, it will be the first time Kingsley Jones’ side haven’t gone to the tournament since its first edition in 1987.
While the South Americans will compete with the Eagles next July for the Americas 2 slot at the World Cup, Canada’s attentions now turn to building towards 2027, with Baillie – who started both games against Chile – more than aware of the implications of missing out on qualification.
“It is always difficult dropping a game, let alone one with that much on the line,” the 30-year-old said.
“Personally, I feel really bad for that next generation that is coming through the ranks now, for them to get that first opportunity to get to a World Cup.
Photo by Armando Tura
“It is obviously the first time that we as Canada have missed that, so there is a lot of pressure on our shoulders and for it to go the way it did, it was a disappointing result.”
Just over three weeks since their disappointment, the team is in Europe where they will play Portugal and Belgium in back-to-back games in the hopes of turning their fortunes around.
Portugal’s hopes of reaching the World Cup remain arrive, with a finish in the top two of the Rugby Europe Championship sending the nation to the tournament for just the second time.
Their hosts in Lisbon this weekend are four places ahead of Canada in World Rugby’s rankings and will offer a more than stern test.
With a young squad that will be hoping to build over the coming years, Baillie is looking to build upon the positive elements of Canada’s efforts in September and October.
“We definitely want to be more effective in the areas we want to be,” Baillie said. “I think we did have some good purchase from our forwards and set piece, getting a lot of penalties, but converting those into tries and getting a positive result would be big.
“With the youth coming through, it is really big for us to guide these guys, teach them the tricks of the trade and hopefully see them apply those things.
“I remember my first time going to an international camp, you are very nervous and there is a lot going on. You’re learning new systems, so you are smoothing the sails for those guys coming up, so that it is not so daunting.”
MOVING TO TORONTO
On October 20, it was announced that Baillie had been traded to the Toronto Arrows from the NOLA Gold.
Moving to New Orleans ahead of the 2019 season, Baillie quickly became a leader in the team’s forward pack, bringing with him an abundance of experience.
Photo by Craig Boudreaux
Making his Canada debut in 2016 before moving to England in order to play for English Championship side London Scottish.
In his two full seasons with the Gold, the team narrowly missed out on playoff rugby, finishing just a place away from being in the postseason on each occasion.
Acquired for a second round pick in the 2022 MLR Collegiate Draft, Baillie is already hoping to be beneficial to his new club.
“I basically got a call from the GM (Ryan Fitzgerald) the night before we played Chile and he broke the news to me them,” Baillie explained.
“So, there was a bit of adjustment with that news. I really enjoyed my time down in NOLA, and I thought I had a positive impact down there, I am just hoping to bring that same kind of mentality and growth to Toronto with the talent they have there.”
Photo by Craig Boudreaux
NOLA overcame Toronto twice in the 2021 season, with Baillie more than aware of the situation that the Arrows found themselves in.
Displaced from Canada and living in Atlanta, Georgia, plenty of Baillie’s international teammates were away from their homes for the better part of half a year in order to compete for the Shield.
“Tours are tough when they are four weeks, let alone six months,” he said. “I think that reflected on the results in the season, so being back in Toronto, I think that is going to be massive for the team.”
Just several days before the announcement that Baillie would be making his way back to Canada, the Arrows played their first game back on Canadian soil in 867.
Taking on the Atlantic Selects at York Lions Stadium, the Arrows XV won 57-10 in front of their faithful fans who offered their support from afar in 2021.
“They have a great fanbase,” Baillie said. “I watched that game, everybody was really happy to be out there, you could see the Toronto players were happy to be back playing on home soil against a good Atlantic Selects side. It was just so good watching a good match-up of Canadian rugby.”