James won't get sentimental

JIM MORRIS

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Veteran rugby international Mike James swears he won't become nostalgic today when he plays what probably will be his last game in Vancouver.

Canada is using the match against B.C. as a tune-up for next month's World Cup in France. And James, a Burnaby, B.C., native who will retire after playing in his fourth World Cup, is more focused on how the team shapes up than what the final home match may mean to him.

"I'm not attaching any particular importance to this game," said the 34-year-old lock, who retired from professional rugby in June after playing 11 years in France with Perpignan and Stade Francais. "For me right now, pretty much every rugby experience is pretty close to the last.

"I'm not going to get all sentimental about which field will be the last game. I'm just happy to be out there. I hope we play well and use this opportunity to get better."

FITTING END

The 6-foot-6, 242-pound James played his first international match in 1994 against the U.S., and has 51 caps to his credit. Wearing the maple leaf again in the World Cup is a fitting end to his career.

"It's a way for me to give back a last time to Canada," he said while the national team practised in Vancouver. "I haven't been available much throughout my professional career with that conflict between club and country.

"I'm on board to play in the World Cup. I may be toward the end of the road, but I'm certainly going to give it my all."

Canadian coach Ric Suggitt said James brings more than skill to the World Cup team.

"He adds wisdom, composure and he has a professional approach to the game," Suggitt said. "At the same time, you would think he's still 19 years old with his enthusiasm around the field.

"The young guys know he's been playing top echelon rugby for 10 years. He knows what it takes to win. He has played in the big games. That confidence will help carry our young guys."

GETTING READY

A group of 31 national team players spent the week practising in Vancouver but were split into two sides for the weekend.

The Canadian team playing B.C. will feature 11 European pros and an unchanged backline from the one that started against the All-Blacks in New Zealand in June.

The full World Cup team will play Portugal on Aug. 18 in Ottawa, then another exhibition game Aug. 25 against an Atlantic team in St. John's, Nfld.

Canada, ranked 13th in the world, opens Group B play at the World Cup against No. 8 Wales on Sept. 9 in Nantes. It will probably take three wins to advance to the World Cup's second round.

James retired from professional rugby in style when Stade Francais defeated Clermont Auvergne 23-18 in the top 14 final at Paris in June.

"It was a bit of a Cinderella story," said James, who is married with two sons. "It was great to leave by the big door, not out the back door."

Canada struggled at the 2003 World Cup. The team was outscored 135-54 and won just one game.

James said having the team train together for a month will be a huge advantage heading into this year's tournament.

"The basis of rugby is if you can't run and can't smash and can't compete with guys for 80 minutes, there's no way you can win on the field," he said. "I think those hard yards have already been done.


Videos

Photos