Canada’s November Internationals
In the hype surrounding the big November Internationals it is easy to overlook the fact that Canada this November has three Internationals of note against Namibia, Samoa and Romania. All three matches are being played in Europe and this past weekend saw Canada in action against Namibia in Wales at Colwyn Bay.
Canada vs Namibia
Final Score – Can 17/Nam 13
This was an impressive outing for Canada, though I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Canada that such matches lack the spectacle that surrounds the Internationals being played by the top ten International teams this month. The tiny crowd present dimmed in comparison with the huge crowds seen at Twickenham, Cardiff and Dublin. Nevertheless an important outing for the Canucks and one in which they acquitted themselves well. Sadly it was also hard to watch this game in Canada, with the only links being a video on the Rugby Canada website that is available on YouTube.
That aside, it was a good game for Canada, though match fitness was a concern towards the end of the game as Namibia came surging back and began to run Canada very close and dominated much of the possession in the last ten minutes. In a tight physical match, both forward packs put in huge performances, but for much of the match Canada were in the ascendancy with the very impressive Nanyak Dala being the only try scorer for Canada. Namibia’s only try also came from a forward which gives you an idea of the physical nature of this game.
Gordon McRorie had a very good day with the boot, and put in a particularly impressive long range penalty kick while Conor Braid’s experience at Glasgow Warriors showed by him consistently providing good field position for Canada. It was also encouraging to see Canada not afraid to spread the ball wide and there was some adventurous if not slightly risky passing for much of the game. Nevertheless, Canada still managed to maintain good go forward ball throughout much of the game with surprisingly few handling errors. I was also pleased to see that Canada was quick to pull in support at the breakdown with the forwards doing good work to capitalise on good line breaks made by Canada’s backline. Jeff Hasler’s stellar form in Europe with Welsh club Ospreys was in evidence for much of the game with him making several thrilling breaks down the outside.
However, the last ten minutes of the game will be a concern for Canada as they started to look tired and made several defensive lapses which Namibia were quick to pounce on. As Canada go up against Samoa this weekend, they will need to take their performance to the next level as Samoa is never an easy team to beat and has a proud reputation of upsetting many of the big International teams.
Fixtures this weekend for Canada
Canada vs Samoa – Vannes, France
Of the three Internationals Canada are playing this month, this is by far their sternest test and some real quality preparation for next year’s World Cup. Samoa have the reputation of being giant slayers, just look at their history of shattering Wales’ World Cup dreams over the years, so Canada will need to be at the top of their game. Samoa at the moment are suffering from internal management issues with the players threatening to boycott their fixture with England in a fortnight’s time, and no doubt this has been a distraction to the team’s preparation. Nevertheless this is a proud rugby nation who are still keen to prove that they are a side to be reckoned with.
Canada will go into this game with some confidence from their match against Namibia. The slightly adventurous passing seen against Namibia will need to be reined in as Samoa will pounce on any gaps that this may create. The defensive lapses seen at the end of the match against Namibia will need to be tightened up as Samoa are a big and powerful side and there is no doubt that the up-front battles will cause Canada all kinds of fatigue issues as the game wears on. Canada can take heart in a solid performance by their scrum against Namibia and will need to build on this for Samoa. If Canada can hold their discipline in the scrum and at the breakdown, and McRorie can continue to provide sterling service to his backline Canada should be competitive for the full 80 minutes. The big question mark will be what Samoan team will turn out on Saturday? If Samoa runs onto the field feeling that this is an opportunity to show the world that the politics ruining the internal structure of their game are merely a side show, then I can’t help feeling that in a tight physical battle Samoa will ultimately come out on top. Either way a fascinating contest awaits us and some excellent preparation for Canada’s World Cup effort next year will be made.