Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011 - Canada vs France Preview

Pool A was long written off as being a non-competitive pool with experts all staying the same thing - New Zealand and France to reach the play-off´s, Tonga to be third and Japan and Canada to fight to avoid the wooden spoon. That scenario has already been made impossible following Canada´s hihgly impressive 25-20 win over Tonga on Wednesday. The result means Tonga cannot finish third in the group. Their best result would be fourth. Canada, after defeating the highly-fancied Pacific Islanders now have the opportunity of going into second place in Pool A as they face France in Napier on Sunday. France are in second place in the standings, behind New Zealand who defeated a second-string Japanese side 83-7 on Friday. France defeated Japan 47-21 in its first match last Saturday but had a tough game as the Europeans were leading only by four points well into the secondhalf. It took a late serge to move clear of the Asians. Japan are winless and sit in bottom place but their performance vs France suggests they will be very tough for both Canada and Tonga are should infact defeat both sides.

If Canada can defeate France they will move into second place ahead of France, whilst a loss will see Canada remain in third with Tonga in fourth and Japan in fifth. Japan vs Tonga is to be played on Wednesday with the winner to surpass Canada if the North Americans lose and fail to pick up a bonus point vs France. The challenge is therefore highly important for the Canadians who have only had four days between matches after they faced Tonga on Wednesday. France, in contrast, have had a full week off. Despite little time to prepare and the players needing rest, Canada are to field the same side that defeated Tonga. The good news is that star backrower, Chauncey O'Toole, who had to leave the field in the first half with an ankle injury has recovered.

Canada have one French based player in secondrower, Jamie Cudmore who plays for Clermont and was a French champion with the club in 2010. He is a highyl regarded player and considered as being one of the best in the Top 14. He is up against Romain Millo-Chluski of Toulouse who is a solid player but Cudmore should have the better of him. Cudmore will be facing a number of his Clermont colleagues with Morgan Parra, Julien Bonnaire and Aurélien Rougerie in the starting XV and Julien Pierre on the bench.

Key Matchup
There are many interesting areas of the game to look forward to. Cudmore will be crucial if Canada are to be competitive. Another position in which Canada could do well is at outside centre with Glasgow Warriors star, DTH van der Merwe taking on Perpignan´s David Marty. van der Merwe was the leading try scorer for his Scottish club last season. Phil MacKenzie vs Vincent Clerc sees two big tryscores competiting with the Canadian having scored in Canada´s previous four internationals. Ed Fairhurst vs Morgan Parra will attract a lot of attention as the battle of old vs new at scrumhalf sees two notable players battling it out. But the most interesting battle will come in the backrow with both sides having excellent players in all three backrow positions. Adam Kleeberger vs Fulgence Ouedraogo sees two vastly different playing styles compete as does Aaron Carpenter vs Louis Picamoles and the French should have the upepr hand in both cases. The battle at number seven could be different however with Chauncey O'Toole vs Julien Bonnaire. The Canadian has recently signed to play for the Osrpreys in Wales and is a world class player. He should be able to outcompete the Frenchman.

History

The two sides have met on eight previous occassions with Canada winning once, in 1994. The famous 18-16 win in Nepean remains as one of the biggest in the history of Canadian rugby. During the 1990´s Canada were indeed a different team and were able to compete with tier one opposition and defeat them. With professionalism, Canada has fallen behind but the current side is clearly superior to the side that last faced France in 2005 with Les Bleus winning 50-6 in Nantes. The teams have faced each other twice before in Rugby World Cup matches. The first time was in 1991 with France winning 19-13 and the second was in 1999 with France winning 33-20.

Prediction

France are a more complete side who are fully professional and genuine title contenders. Les Bleus are thus hot favorites to defeat Canada who have had little time to prepare for the match. Canada will compete and do have some outstanding players but France will be able to control the match, especially in the secondhalf. the Rugby World Cup organizers need to face reality and not ask the second tier sides to play their matches so close together. Hopefully the IRB do, indeed, listen to the calls from Kieran Crowley and others to change the schedule´s for the future. France to win by 25 points.


Canada

1 Hubert Buydens
2 Pat Riordan (Captain)
3 Jason Marshall
4 Jebb Sinclair
5 Jamie Cudmore
6 Adam Kleeberger
7 Chauncey O'Toole
8 Aaron Carpenter
9 Ed Fairhurst
10 Ander Monro
11 Phil Mackenzie
12 Ryan Smith
13 DTH van der Merwe
14 Ciaran Hearn
15 James Pritchard

Reserves
16 Ryan Hamilton
17 Scott Franklin
18 Tyler Hotson
19 Nanyak Dala
20 Sean White
21 Nathan Hirayama
22 Conor Trainor

France

1 Jean-Baptiste Poux
2 William Servat
3 Luc Ducalcon
4 Pascal Pape
5 Romain Millo-Chluski
6 Fulgence Ouedraogo
7 Julien Bonnaire
8 Louis Picamoles
9 Morgan Parra
10 Francois Trinh-Duc
11 Aurélien Rougerie (Captain)
12 Maxime Mermoz
13 David Marty
14 Vincent Clerc
15 Damien Traille

Reserves

16 Guilhem Guirado
17 Fabien Barcella
18 Julien Pierre
19 Imanol Harinordoquy
20 Dimitri Yachvili
21 Fabrice Estebanez
22 Maxime Médard

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