|Al Charron leads out Canada at RWC 2003 to face Tonga|
There have been some close and physical encounters between Canada and Tonga over the years with the 2013 match in Kingston and Canada´s 25-20 win Tonga at Rugby World Cup 2011 showcasing close contests packed with emotion.
When the sides met at Rugby World Cup 2003 it was a final chance of winning a pool match. Both sides had already faced Italy, New Zealand and Wales and had both had an opportunity of knocking over a Tier One side. Canada pushed the Italians while Tonga scored more tries than Wales but was not only playing against a higher ranked and regarded team but also playing against time. The match schedule for Rugby World Cup 2003 gave New Zealand and Wales friendly turn-arounds while the three others were forced to back-up in fewer days. Italy had played its final pool match over a week before the New Zealand v Wales match while the Canada v Tonga game was played four days before the All Blacks v Welsh fixture.
Tonga not only finished four days before the All Blacks but it also started four days later after New Zealand began on October 11 and Tonga on October 15. Needless to say the organizers of Rugby World Cup 2003 did an extremely poor job and it had the impact of asking more of the weaker sides while the stronger ones were able to rest and recover to have a simpler task of securing wins.
Canada´s captain in 2003 was Al Charron who was playing in his fourth Rugby World Cup. He had been a Quarter Finalist in Rugby World Cup 1991 and a part of the strong Canadian side that defeated Wales in Cardiff in 1993. In total Charron played 76 tests for Canada with his last coming at Rugby World Cup 2003 against Tonga. Playing in the second-row Charron was taken out by Tongan fly half Pierre Hola who failed to use his arms in the tackle.
The referee was in perfect position but did not make a call. Referee Alain Rolland said it was a Canadian knock-on, thereby calling the hit a legitimate tackle. Eight years later the Irish referee would make headlines for red carding Sam Warburton in a World Cup Semi Final. The Welsh captain did not have control of French winger Vincent Clerc in what was a tip-tackle which promped Rolland to send him off. Clerc remained on the field playing unlike Charron in 2003 whose match and career was ended as he was carried off unconscious with blood coming from his mouth.
Had the incident occured in Rugby World Cup 2011 then Rolland would have certainly red carded Hola. South African Bismarck du Plessis was yellow carded for performing a tackle with no arms two weeks ago, despite replays confirming that he had infact used his arms. The tackle from Hola was worse than that which injured Dan Carter due to the Tongan not only failing to use his arms but also raising his shoulders suring the hit to make contact with the facial area of Charron. The two illegal acts combined certainly merited attention from the match official. Curiously Charron and Rolland played together in England with Charron playing number 8 and Rolland scrumhalf for Moseley. Charron responded to Argentina 2023 on Friday morning on twitter.
With both Canada and the USA having been added to the Pacific Nations Cup this year there are certain to be many future clashes of note to look forward to between Canada and Tonga. There have been seven matches played between Canada and Tonga with the North Americans winning five, including all three at Rugby World Cup´s.