Canada look to end their disappointing tour on a more positive note as they travel to Lisbon for the third time to face Portugal, a side determined to play spoiler.
PORTUGAL vs CANADA
Saturday, November 23, 15:00 GMT, Lisbon
Despite being seven spots below Canada in the IRB rankings, Os Lobos have proved themselves capable of competing with the visitors as they have lost the last two tests by less than 10 point each time, the last one by only 3. The Canadians look tired and beaten up and have been forced to draft in extra players to make up the numbers for this match. Portugal themselves will still be recovering from a long journey to Brazil, where they played this past weekend, earning a resounding 68-0 win.
Frederico Sousa has made just one change to last week’s starting side, as Fernando Almeida makes his run-on debut in place of Julien Bardy, who has returned to Clermont. Nuno Costa replaces Luis Salema on the bench, and uncapped Luis Portela – apparently also a successful motocross rider but otherwise a mystery man – provides back row cover. Captain Joao Correia is one of six players left from the side that lost narrowly three years ago.
Canada have released nearly all of their professionals back to their clubs, including Ospreys duo Tyler Ardron and Jeff Hassler, London Irish flanker Jebb Sinclair, Cornish Pirates fullback Matt Evans, and Sale wing Phil Mackenzie. In better news Ray Barkwill has been passed fit to play, and Taylor Paris has joined up with the squad from Agen. Kyle Gilmour, Patrick Parfrey, and Connor Braid – all part of the team that faced the Maori in Toronto – have been drafted in as emergency cover. Gilmour and Djustice Sears-Duru both stand to win their first official test caps should they appear.
Hubert Buydens captains in the absence of Ardron, and is joined in the pack by Jon Phelan who rotates with Brett Beukeboom in the second row. The all-openside back row sees John Moonlight and Adam Kleeberger both playing slightly out of position, an interesting selection that may yield mobility but sacrifices a huge amount of size and power. Conor Trainor replaces Hassler on the wing, and James Pritchard comes in for Evans at fullback.
At full strength the visitors win this easily, but with so many disruptions and a serious lack of firepower up front this match should prove significantly more challenging than first expected. The handling errors that have plagued the Canadians over the last two games could be exacerbated with the forecast of rain a near-certainty, something that could also negatively affect their already struggling tactical kicking game. A Portuguese victory here is not far out of the realms of possibility, which in and of itself should be a concern to Canadian fans, but the experience of the visitors should be enough to scrape through in the end. Canada wins by 5.
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)
Assistants: Sean Brickell (WRU) & Wayne Davies (WRU)
*Canadian cap totals include all senior appearances that have yet to be acknowledged as official test caps