Pool A preview: Tonga v Canada

Tue, 13 Sep 2011 00:00
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Canada will get their first taste of World Cup action in Whangerai on Wednesday when they take on a Tongan team that will be desperate to secure a vital victory.

Canada will get their first taste of World Cup action in Whangerai on Wednesday when they take on a Tongan team that will be desperate to secure a vital victory.

The Tongans earned admiration for a dogged display against New Zealand in their first game but they must register their first World Cup win against Canada if they are to stand any chance of reaching the quarterfinals.

Tonga named an all-new line-up from the side that lost 41-10 to the All Blacks, with 11 different players drafted in and the remaining four players switching positions.

Captain Finau Maka, the lone survivor in the pack, moves from openside to blindside flank, scrumhalf Taniela Moa shifts to flyhalf, Siale Piutau goes from wing to outside centre and Kurt Morath moves from flyhalf to fullback.

Canada coach Kieran Crowley said Tonga's performance against the All Blacks, where they camped on their line and were rewarded with a try, was a prime example of how rugby's minnows were closing the gap with the top teams.

"It always amazes me in the media how they say that top teams don't fire when they play those teams. From experience, the so-called tier-two countries are improving and you can only play as well as you are allowed to play.

"Defensively they (Tonga) were very good, they had a couple of glitches, which the All Blacks were able to get through, but their direct pick-and-go game was good, and the scrum is one of the strongest," commented Crowley.

Four of Canada's team are veterans of the 24-7 pool win over Tonga eight years ago, while there are two changes from their last warm-up match with Ryan Smith starting at inside centre and Ed Fairhurst at scrumhalf.

Captain and hooker Pat Riordan said Canada had taken heart from the weekend games and were "chomping at the bit" to get their campaign under way.

"One thing coming from watching the games on the weekend, that might be an advantage of playing at the second week, is you see the France and Japan game or Scotland v Romania, they were games that were decided in the last 10 minutes," he said.

"That was pretty exciting for us, there's nothing to say you can't beat a team that's five or six or 10 (ranking) places above you. So in that sense we are chomping at the bit to show what we can do," added the Canadian skipper.

Players to Watch:

For Canada: Physical lock Jamie Cudmore will take the Tongans on up front, if he can avoid the sin bin, and he will be backed up in the Canadian pack by hard-working flank Chauncey O'Toole who has recently signed with Welsh club the Ospreys. Speedy South African-born outside centre DTH Van der Merwe, who plays for the Glasgow Warriors, will be on the lookout for opportunities in midfield while fullback James Pritchard will look to keep the scoreboard ticking with his accurate goal-kicking.

For Tonga: Alisona Taumalolo, who made such an impression when he came off the bench in the opening game against the All Blacks, gets an opportunity to impose himself on the Canadians from the first whistle while it will also be interesting to see how Taniela Manu fares at flyhalf after playing in the No.9 jersey in the opening game.

Head to Head: The front row battle will be key, Canadian hooker and captain Pat Riordan will want to set the tone for his troops while Taumalolo will will be looking to charge at some Canadian defenders and get his name on the scoresheet once more. The midfield clash between Van der Merwe and Piutau - who was impressive on the wing against the All Blacks - while the two fullbacks look set to engage in a battle of the boot which could be decisive.

Recent Results:
Canada won 24-7 in Wollongong
1987: Canada won 37-4 in Napier

Prediction: The teams seem to be pretty evenly matched with similar world rankings, and while the Tongans have already played one game they have named a completely different team so factors like fatigue and continuity will not have much of an influence. This one really could go either way as both sides would have targeted this game as a must-win ahead of the tournament. The Tongans will enjoy better support and if they can produce the same intensity that they did in the second half at Eden Park then they will be a handful for the Canadians who will be keen to make a statement in their first game. We are backing the Tongans to win by about five points.

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The teams:

Tonga: 15 Kurt Morath, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Alipate Fatafehi, 11 William Helu, 10 Taniela Moa, 9 Thomas Palu, 8 Samiu Vahafolau, 7 Sione Vaiomo'unga, 6 Finau Maka (captain), 5 Tukulua Lokotui, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Ephraim Taukafa, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aloisio Ma'asi, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Viliami Ma'afu, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Viliame Iongi, 22 Alaska Taufa.

Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Ciaran Hearn, 13 DTH Van Der Merwe, 12 Ryan Smith, 11 Phil Mackenzie, 10 Ander Monro, 9 Ed Fairhurst, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Adam Kleeberger, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Pat Riordan (captain), 1 Hubert Buydens
Replacements: 16 Ryan Hamilton, 17 Scott Franklin, 18 Tyler Hotson, 19 Nanyak Dala, 20 Conor Trainor, 21 Sean White, 22 Nathan Hirayama.

Date: Wednesday, September 14
Venue: Northland Events Centre, Whangarei
Kick-off: 17.00 (05.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Overcast with showers ecpected. High of 18°C, low of 10°C
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Stuart Terheege (England)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

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Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 17
Wales 4 3 0 1 13
England 4 2 0 2 11
Fiji 4 1 0 3 5
Uruguay 4 0 0 4 0
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
South Africa 4 3 0 1 16
Scotland 4 3 0 1 14
Japan 4 3 0 1 12
Samoa 4 1 0 3 6
United States 4 0 0 4 0
Pool C
Team P W D L Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 19
Argentina 4 3 0 1 15
Georgia 4 2 0 2 8
Tonga 4 1 0 3 6
Namibia 4 0 0 4 1
Pool D
Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 18
France 4 3 0 1 14
Italy 4 2 0 2 10
Romania 4 1 0 3 4
Canada 4 0 0 4 2