Canada enter the fray
September 13, 2011
Taneila Moa parades around Eden Park with the Tongan flag after his country's spirited display against the All Blacks © Getty Images
Canada make their fashionably late arrival at the Rugby World Cup party on Wednesday as they go head-to-head with Tonga, their opponents having set the tone for a surprisingly competitive tournament to date by putting it up to the All Blacks in the opening game last Friday.
The Canucks, who made the quarter-finals in 1991, will go in to the game confident of kicking off their campaign with a victory. Firstly, they defeated the Tongans twice before in the game's showpiece event, in New Zealand in 1987 and eight years ago in Australia. In addition, they have taken great heart out of their two victories over the USA last month, results which look all the more impressive in light of the Eagles' impressive performance in defeat by Ireland on Sunday. The Canadians will also be buoyed by the fact that this will be Tonga's second outing in five days.
However, freshness might not be that much of an issue given that the Tongans have rung the changes for their meeting with the Canucks. And besides, they are feeling pretty pleased with themselves after causing New Zealand all sorts of problems in the second half of their clash in Auckland, so they will perhaps be grateful for the short turnaround and the opportunity to pick up where they left off at Eden Park.
Canada - Player to Watch: Jamie Cudmore is always a player worth keeping an eye - although not always for the right reasons. The Clermont lock has fallen foul of the citing commissioner no numerous occasions throughout his career but he is an immensely talented player all the same and should be a pivotal figure in this particular contest. He'll be desperate to make up for lost time, too, given that his appearance against Russia in June was his first for his country since the 2007 World Cup because of injuries and club committments.
Canada - Team News: Canada boss Kieran Crowley stays with the same 22 chosen for their recent match against the Australian Barbarians. Ryan Smith starts at inside centre, having come off the bench in both Tests against the Americans, while Ed Fairhurst is back at scrum-half. Ciaran Hearn and Adam Kleeberger are retained at right wing and blindside flanker respectively after coming on as replacements in Canada's first warm-up match against the USA on August 6.
Tonga - Player to Watch: Sona Taumalolo made a big impact after being sprunge from the bench against the All Blacks, scoring a try, putting in a massive hit on Dan Carter and generally just adding some dynamism to Tonga's play. The loose-head gets his chance from the start on Wednesday so expect more fireworks from him.
Tonga - Team News: Coach Isitolo Maka has made 11 changes, the most made by a Tongan side in World Cup history. Finau Maka is the only survivor from the pack which faced New Zealand but the skipper has been moved from openside to blindside flanker. Kurt Morath, Siale Piutau and Taniela Moa have all retained their places in the back-line, but they too have been redeployed. Morath switches to fullback, with Moa moving from scrum-half to No.10. Meanwhile, Piutau, who started on the wing against the All Blacks, takes up residence in midfield.
Key Battle: In what is likely to be a tight encounter, control of the breakdown is likely to prove decisive so the onus will be on the two side's respective back rows, Adam Kleeberger, Chauncey O'Toole, Aaron Carpenter of Canada and Tongan trio Maka, Sione Vaiomounga, Samiu Vahafolau, to secure quality ball for their backs. As ever with the Tongans, expect some big collisions.
Trivia: Canada have failed to win a World Cup match since their last meeting with Tonga at the 2003 World Cup, drawing once and losing three times.
Stats: Canada need 13 more points to have notched up 400 in this tournament's history.
"He brings great experience, there is only him and DTH van der Merwe who play in the top leagues in the world - then we have three players who have division one in England and the rest of the guys are locals."
"We have a lot of respect for them, they beat the USA and you can see the USA did well against Ireland. There are no easy games so we expect a very, very hard game."
Prediction: This should be a very competitive game and we're tipping the Canadians to edge it on account of the fact that the Tongans have decided to rest a number of their key men, including Soane Tonga'uiha, who has been left on the bench.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson