|The William Webb Ellis Cup|
Canadian national mens headcoach Kieran Crowley has announced his team to face the USA this Saturday in Charleston, South Carolina. The match is the first of two Rugby World Cup Qualification matches with the overall winner of the two games on aggregate set to qualify for England 2015 in Pool D. The runner-up will face Uruguay in a North v South America play-off seres in March or April 2014 with the winner on aggregate being confirmed in Pool B as Americas 2. Whoever wins this weekend will therefore have one foot in the door and have eight months more time to promote its campaign both on and off the field.
Despite there having been calls made for Crowley to name a starting XV that closely resembles a probable team for England 2015 Crowley has very much named a team based on Canada´s strengths in 2013. In other words, building for Rugby World Cup 2015 is likely to begin in November when Canada will face Georgia, Romania and Portugal in Europe. Crowley may wish to utilize captain Aaron Carpenter at hooker, possibly against Portugal as a minimum. Against the USA on Saturday, however, Carpenter will lead Canada from the back of the scrum. He has been named at number 8 in a backrow which featured John Moonlight at openside flanker and Ospreys´s new recruit Tyler Ardron on the blindside.
The robust flanker pairing has been named with Crowley returning to the secondrow combination from Rugby World Cup 2011. Canada´s biggest names in European rugby, Jamie Cudmore and Jebb Sinclair will start together in the secondrow despite Sinclair´s natural position being in the backrow. The selection would appear to be due to the team having notable options in the backrow but less so in the secondrow. Two players from Rugby World Cup 2011 will cover these positions from the bench - Tyler Hotson and Nanyak Dala. There is no place for either Adam Kleeberger or Chauncey O´Toole due to neither being available.
The frontrow will see Jason Marshall retain the starting tighthead prop position but he will not be joined by his partner from New Zealand 2011, Hubert Buydens. He misses out due to him having joined Manawatu to play in the ITM Cup. In place of Buydens Crowley has named Andrew Tiedemann at loosehead prop while the starting hooker is to be Ryan Hamilton. The chances of Carpenter getting game time at hooker are low due to Ray Barkwill having been named on the bench as the replacement hooker. Marshall and Tiedemann will have cover in the form of the Ontario Blues pair of Tom Dolezel and Doug Woldridge.
The starting backline consists of the all-professional back-three of James Pritchard at fullback and DTH van der Merwe and Matt Evans on the wings. The backs are, otherwise, all Canadian based with Crowley opting to named Nick Blevins and Ciaran Hearn as his centre combination and thus having Phil McKenzie on the bench. The starting halves combination sees Phil Mack and Harry Jones snamed ahead of Sean White and Nathan Hirayama. The superior tackling of Jones compared to Hirayama may have contributed to Crowley´s decision due to the USA set to have an explosive back-three trio of strong ball carriers likely to target the flyhalf.
Crowley told Rugby Canada that “the only guys that weren’t considered due to injury were Liam Underwood, who’s not quite 100%, Conor Trainor (returning from a broken ankle) and, of course, Jeff Hassler. You’ve got to enjoy what you do. Canada and USA have a great rivalry and there’s always a lot of intensity around the event. But you’ve got to be careful you don’t go over the top and try to keep the game in perspective. Part of that is backing your skills and to be able to go out on the field and enjoy the occasion.”
1 Andrew Tiedemann, 2 Ryan Hamilton, 3 Jason Marshall
(Prarie Wolfpack), (BC Bears), (La Rochelle, France)
4 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Jamie Cudmore
(London Irish, England) (Clermont Auvergne, France)
6 Tyler Ardron, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 John Moonlight
(Ospreys, Wales), Cornish Pirates, England) (Ontario Blues)
9 Phil Mack, 10 Harry Jones
(BC Bears), (BC Bears)
12 Nick Blevins, 13 Ciaran Hearn
(Prarie Wolfpack), (The Rock)
11 DTH Van Der Merwe, 15 James Pritchard, 14 Matt Evans
(Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), (Bedford Blues, England), (Cornish Pirates, England)
16 Ray Barkwill (Ontario Blues)
17 Tom Dolezel (Ontario Blues)
18 Doug Wooldridge (Ontario Blues)
19 Tyler Hotson (London Scottish, England)
20 Nanyak Dala (Prairie Wolf Pack)
21 Sean White (BC Bears)
22 Nathan Hirayama (BC Bears)
23 Phil Mackenzie (Sale Sharks, England)