Canada will be out for redemption after dropping this very same fixture a year ago today. On paper this looks by far the closest match of the tournament. Though the USA come in with one loss and Canada a win, both sides had their struggles in the opening match and there isn’t much to choose from on form. Head coaches Kieran Crowley and Mike Tolkin have resisted making changes, tinkering only slightly from the sides that ran out on Saturday.
Given Canada’s relative depth in the forwards it’s a surprise that Nanyak Dala is the only addition to the pack. Kyle Baillie, who impressed against Uruguay, is the one to drop out, with Evan Olmstead moving into the second row. Crowley is clearly intent on getting the upper hand right away before bringing on the subs early in the second half.
The most intriguing decision, or non-decision depending on how you look at it, is the retention of Gordon McRorie at flyhalf. His combination with Jamie Mackenzie was one of the weak points from the Uruguay match and the swapping of Derek Daypuck with Patrick Parfrey isn’t likely to change much in terms of options. Jordan Wilson-Ross has been called into the reserves after a weekend in the Gold Coast and could move into the midfield if things go awry.
Also arriving from down under are Zack Test, Folau Niua, and Andrew Durutalo, with all three taking up places on the Selects bench. The trio could make a big splash off the bench, but they’ll need the get the ball in their hands to do it. The only changes to the run-on side are Brian Doyle for Graham Harriman, and speedster Tim Stanfill taking over from heavyweight Lemoto Filikitonga. The wings didn’t see much action against Argentina so Stanfill’s speed is more likely to be seen on the kick chase, though there could be opportunities against a less fleet-of-foot Dan Moor should he be given the opportunity.
Phil Thiel has been handed the captaincy for the match in a move that probably indicates an early rest for Louis Stanfill. Thiel and his front row mates will again be under pressure from a strong Canadian unit who have played together on numerous occasions over the past few years. It’s a clear advantage for the home side, and combined with the strength of the replacements one that’s likely to make the difference in the end.
If the Americans can be more accurate at the set piece and get their exit strategies right on the restarts, they could turn this one into a real dogfight. Canada will look to get on the front foot early and establish dominance in tight, but if they don’t turn pressure into points it will be anyone’s game in the second half. It’s as close to a coin toss as you get in this tournament, but you have to give the slight edge to the Canadian tight five, and their four quality replacements. This should be an exciting game with the home side just edging it by 3.
CANADA ‘A’ vs USA SELECT XV
Wednesday, October 15, 20:00 PST, Langford