Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rugby World Cup 2007 - Canada vs Japan

Canadian legends Rod Snow, Mike James and Morgan Williams together for the last time

One of the most exciting matches of Rugby World Cup 2007 was the tournaments only draw. It was a pool match between Canada and Japan at the Stade Chaban Delmas in the Southern-west of France in the wine Mecca of Bordeaux. The city hosted four matches with Canada being involved in two of them. Canada played its third and fourth matches in Bordeaux after having taken on Wales in Nantes and Fiji in Cardiff. the Canadians had put in good performances but incomplete ones as they had blown opportunities in both matches for a victory. Canada had put in a solid first half vs Wales which had given the favorites a massive scare which, no doubt, brought back memories from the 1993 clash between the two teams in Cardiff. On that day the North Americans left their mark forever on global rugby.

But in 2007 Canadian rugby was in need of a boost and the boost that Canadian rugby authorities and followers had been seeking for from France 2007 had not yet occured, despite 80 good minutes of rugby in the first 160 minutes at the tournament. Coach Ric Sluggo Suggitt had summed up the situation perfectly in a pre-match interview before the Japanese match in saying that Canada had played two good halves - the first vs Wales and the second vs Fiji. Canada now needed to put it together and defeat Japan. The match was built up as an interesting one due to not only both sides eeding a win but due to how both had played. The Japanese fielded a B team in its match vs Australia and were well beaten. They then fielded a team packed with the best Japanese rugby has to offer for the teams clash with Fiji in Toulouse four days latter. The match between Japan and Fiji was a back-and-forward game with Japan pushing Fiji to the limit in a highly entertaining try-scoring feast of a contest. Fiji held on to win the match 35-31. 

Canada fielded a team with more to offer in the forwards than the backs. Despite not having the services of Clermont´s Jamie Cudmore the team was nonetheless strong in the forwards with secondrower Colin Yukes playing in the backrow. Canada had five forwards and onyl two backs on the bench and of the forwards three were props. Suggitt had selected Aaron Carpenter at 8 for the match. He was considered Canada´s back up hooker to Pat Riordan. The backs featured a running flyhalf with Ryan Smith playing 10 rather than 12. It was an indication of Canada´s intentions but the match failed to be as highscoring as it could have been. The match also saw secondrower Mike James play for his country for the final time before retirement. James had been a key player for Canada for a long time and had won the French Championship with Stade Français earlier in the year.

The most important thing to come out of the game was not the result, but, rather the importance of having 20 teams at World Cup´s. A number of Tier One sides were pushing for the World Cup to be reduced to 16 teams and the idea appearwed to have the backing of the IRB. France 2007 destroyed the idea however as Argentina got the tournament off to the perfect start with a win over France in Paris. Canada vs Japan acted as a reminder that great games do not require Tier One teams and that both Canada and Japan are vital participants of World Cup´s. 

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