Canada looks to end the Americas Rugby Championship on a winning note Friday as it takes on Brazil in Sao Paulo.
For coach Mark Anscombe the tournament has been a chance to evaluate young talent. But questions remain, including the pivotal position of fly half.
With No. 1 Connor Braid playing for the Worcester Warriors in England’s Aviva Premiership, Anscombe has used Robbie Povey and Gradyn Bowd in the No. 10 position during the tournament, also sliding scrum half Gord McRorie over to fly half.
“I’m clear who No. 1 is. He’s not with us,” Anscombe said, referencing Braid. “It’s an area that we’re very very thin in … It’s just an area where we’re going to have to be patient because we do not produce players in that position. It’s a real concern.”
Pat Parfrey, another in the No. 10 pool, is currently sidelined with a leg injury.
Canada, ranked 20th in the world, is 1-3-0 at the tournament, having beaten Chile 36-15 and lost 20-6 to Argentina ‘A,’ 51-34 to the U.S. and 17-13 Uruguay. No. 33 Brazil (also 1-3-0) is coming off a 79-7 thumping at the hand of the Argentines.
“They should be motivated, yeah,” Anscombe said of the Brazilians. “They’ve had a few days off this week I understand so they’ll come back fresh. If you look at some of their games, they’ve actually played some good rugby … They actually do have a few capable players in their team. They won’t be a pushover and it’s going to be another challenge for us to make sure that the work we do during the week is shown on the park game-time.”
The Brazilians opened the tournament with a 17-3 victory over Chile before falling 51-3 to the U.S. and 23-12 to Uruguay.
Canada defeated Brazil 52-25 in their only other meeting, at the 2016 tournament in Langford, B.C.
The ARC winner will be determined in Patagonia on Saturday when Argentina ‘A’ hosts the 17th-ranked Americans in a battle of unbeaten teams. Third-place Uruguay, ranked 21st in the world, hosts No. 30 Chile, which has yet to register a point.
“We haven’t had the results that we’ve wanted but we’ve had aspects of games that have answered questions for us on certain personnel, which has been a key for us,” said Anscombe. “And we have grown in certain areas.”
Winger Rory McDonell is slated to become the 11th player to earn his first cap for Canada during the tournament. Last year’s competition saw 19 Canadians win their first cap.
Anscombe is unashamedly building towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, with qualification starting later this summer.
“We’ve got two years, 2 1/2 years, and we’ve got to start developing and bringing a new breed through that’s going to offer something for Canada going forward. That’s been the priority of this campaign”
Friday’s starting 15 sees brothers Brett and Matt Beukeboom both in the forward pack, Brett at lock and Matt at flanker. They are the first Canadian brothers to start in the same test match since Jamie and Phil Mackenzie against Italy at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
McRorie captains Canada.
Rob Brouwer, Eric Howard, Matthew Tierney, Brett Beukeboom, Liam Chisholm, Matt Beukeboom, Lucas Rumball, Admir Cejvanovic, Gord McRorie (capt.), Gradyn Bowd, Rory McDonell, Nick Blevins, Conor Trainor, Dan Moor, Guiseppe du Toit.
Ray Barkwill, Djustice Sears-Duru, Cole Keith, Reegan O’Gorman, Clay Panga, Phil Mack, George Barton,Brock Staller.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press