RWC Match Preview: Canada vs All Blacks
Canada will battle the All Blacks in both nation’s 2nd game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Canada will face quite a challenge as they go up against 3-time Rugby World Cup Champions and the perennial best team in the world. Both teams were faced with their most important game of the tournament in the opener. Canada fell 48-7 to Italy in a game they needed to win for a chance at automatic qualification. The All Blacks defeated the Springboks 23-13 in a victory that opens the door for them to top pool B. The All Blacks are heavy favourites in this match and people will be shocked if Canada can keep this game close. If Canada defeats the All Blacks, this game will go down as the biggest upset in the history of sports.
Kingsley Jones has made a handful of changes to his lineup that took on Italy. A few of those changes are based on injuries. Evan Olmstead is a welcome return to the pack and Taylor Paris returns to the lineup (but is in the reserves). With injuries to Nick Blevins and Ben LeSage; Ciaran Hearn and Conor Trainor will be the starting centres. There are no other changes to the backline. However, with Phil Mack, Andrew Coe, and Paris on the bench, there could be some shifting around once the reserves enter the game. Paris and Coe are both outside backs. This could force Jones to move DTH van der Merwe or Patrick Parfrey to centre if Hearn or Trainor needs to be replaced.
Lucas Rumball’s fractured finger doesn’t appear to be keeping him out of the lineup. Canada will need him for a physical match with the All Blacks. Matt Heaton had a rough outing vs Italy, but he gets a chance to redeem himself as he replaces Mike Sheppard in the starting XV. Finally, Toronto Arrows’ forwards Cole Keith and Andrew Quattrin will get to make their Rugby World Cup debut against the All Blacks, which is just an awesome thing to say you have done.
Steve Hansen’s lineup shows some signs of experimentation but is still without a doubt the best lineup Canada has faced this RWC cycle. With 10 days off following their opener with the Springboks, the All Blacks are not resting that many players. All Blacks captain Kieran Read will lineup opposite Tyler Ardron at No. 8. The rest of the pack features some of the younger/newer All Blacks. In the front row, Atu Moli, Liam Coltman, and Angus Ta’avao all have under 10 caps. Shannon Frizell is the 4th member of the pack with less than 10 caps. Ultimately, just Read and Scott Barrett started the match with the Springboks.
The forwards will overpower Canada’s pack. However, the true nightmare for Canada will be the backline. TJ Perenara gets a rare start at scrumhalf with Aaron Smith given some rest. Perenara will be feeding the ball to a backline featuring both Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf and Beauden Barrett at fullback. This is Hansen’s best flyhalf and fullback, however, the All Blacks moved Barrett to flyhalf following the injury to Damien Mackenzie.
They have not played in this configuration for very long and could be looking to experiment with some tactics against Canada. The rest of the backline features Reiko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Jack Goodhue, and Jordie Barrett. All players looking to prove they are worthy of increased playing time when the knockout stages come around. The bench also poses some problems for Canada as they will have to deal with a fresh Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock, and more All Blacks starters coming off the bench when fatigue starts to set in.
3 Things to Watch
Canadian captain Tyler Ardron is an elite player. Not elite by tier 2 standards either, just flat out elite. The All Blacks know this and even made a point to mention how much they respect Ardron in their squad announcement. Ardron is the first Canadian to play in Super Rugby. Many of his Chiefs teammates are All Blacks and some of them will feature in this game (Moli, Ta’avao, Laulala, and Weber). The All Blacks are well aware of how good Ardron is and know that he can play at their level. For that reason, they will try to contain him and limit his impact on the game.
Ardron is great in the lineouts, an outstanding defender, and a great ball carrier with surprising speed for a forward. If Canada is going to pull off the upset, Ardron will have to be the best player on the pitch. A tough task when going up against the number 1 team in the world, but one Ardron can handle.
Canada will likely end up playing a lot of defense in this game. They will need to be incredibly physical with the All Blacks. Luke Campbell said earlier in the week that the All Blacks are “just guys in shorts”. Campbell is ultimately right. They are just guys, so hit them. Hard. Make sure when they wake up the next morning, they remember they played Canada the night before. If the All Blacks score 1 try or 10 tries, make them earn every single one of them. Don’t give up any easy line breaks and don’t give up penalties. Make the All Blacks work for it.
Ireland showed last November that you can beat the All Blacks on the back of ferocious defense. Do exactly that. Make every tackle count and hit every breakdown with intensity. A physical brand of rugby used to be Canada’s trademark. It’s time to remind the world why.
Maintain Possession For As Long As Possible
Gordon McRorie abandoned the box kick after Italy turned his first one into points. I would like to see him continue that trend against the All Blacks. The All Blacks are a great team, you don’t need to give them the ball back. In the same vein as “make them earn every try”, make them earn everything on defense too. Force them to earn the ball back. Make the All Blacks play some defense as well and give your pack a much-needed break from defense.
Also, remember that if you kick the ball away, you are kicking to Beauden Barrett. Do you really want to give the best player in the world the ball back? Italy burned you with counter-attacks. Imagine what Beauden, Jordie, Ioane, and Mo’unga will do.
You can watch Tyler Ardron lead Canada as they look to earn the biggest upset in sports history on October 2nd, 2019 at 6:15am on TSN. As always, you can follow me, @Bressette4, on twitter for updates throughout the match.