Canada's senior men's coach Kieran Crowley is expecting a very physical game up front and an expansive game out wide from the U.S.A. at Toronto's BMO Field this Saturday for the Can-Am Trophy.
“Initially I think the teams will be feeling each other out, but once it settles down we're expecting some very exciting rugby, it's great to have this performance at BMO Field,” Crowley said. "We always have very physical games against the U.S. It's always pretty abrasive and you've got to try to get that physical dominance up front.”
Crowley has named an unchanged forward pack from Canada's last game against the England Saxons in the Churchill Cup final, with some tweaking in the backline to mix youth with experience and attacking prowess out wide.
The forward pack and the side will be led by captain Pat Riordan, joined in the front row by Hubert Buydens at loosehead and Jason Marshall at tighthead.
The engine room will be powered by the physical presence of Jamie Cudmore and Brian Erichsen, while the familiar back-row combination of Jebb Sinclair, Chauncey O'Toole and Aaron Carpenter continue their hold at the loose.
The backline features four players returning from the Churchill Cup final and the return of Ed Fairhurst at scrum-half, who will celebrate his 51st cap for Canada. The moment will be a special one for Fairhurst, as he will be recognized on home soil for his 50th, which was earned in a test match against Russia during the Churchill Cup.
While the occasions of Fairhurst's achievement and Canada's first-ever game at BMO Field will be big ones, Crowley said the team was more focused on the challenge on the field.
"Personal goals and the fact we're at BMO are great but in the end it comes down to the performance you put on the paddock and that's how we'll judge the game,” he said. “We need to focus on the game and those other things like Ed's recognition just give us a sense of occasion, but if we start using those as the motivators, we're not going to achieve what we want to.”
Fairhurst will combine with the World Cup squad's vice captain Ander Monro, the rudder of the backline.
The squad's current high-scorer James Pritchard has returned to blind wing, with Crowley opting to get DTH van der Merwe back in the action in the role of inside centre, beside Mike Scholz who will celebrate just his third cap as a senior Canadian representative.
"Mike's pretty new to international rugby, but we've certainly been very impressed with his performances, it's an opportunity to give him a crack,” Crowley said.
With the centre spots filled, Esher man Phil Mackenzie has been moved to open wing, with Matt Evans at fullback.
"We looked at our last game,” Crowley said. “Mackenzie, Pritchard and Evans all started. Phil has trained really well this week and he had a pretty good performance against the Saxons and we wanted to get DTH involved as well.”
Crowley has opted for a four-three combination with his reserves, with Ryan Hamilton, Scott Franklin, Tyler Hotson and Adam Kleeberger the forward substitutes. If he takes the field, Kleeberger will have played his first game for Canada since the 2010 European tour.
The backline reserves see Sean White ready to run on for Fairhurst, Ryan Smith as a centers backup and Ciaran Hearn for the outside backs.
Both teams have had a significant time between games, so will be looking to the game as an indication of how Rugby World Cup preparation is going.
Crowley and his team are excited for the challenge of facing a strong USA side in front of a Toronto crowd.
Rugby Canada is urging anyone still waiting to purchase their tickets to buy them in advance, as demand is high for this historic event.
Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/1000466C9B47478B
Canada vs U.S.A. - Canadian squad
NAME (HOMETOWN, CRC/PRO, HOME CLUB, SCHOOL PROGRAMS)
1. Hubert Buydens (Saskatoon, SK, Prairie Wolf Pack/CRC, Saskatoon Wild Oats, Walter Murray/University of Saskatchewan)
2. Pat Riordan (C) (Surrey, BC, BC Bears/CRC, Burnaby Lake, Tamanawis Secondary/University of Victoria)
3. Jason Marshall (North Vancouver, BC, BC Bears/CRC, Capilano, Carson Graham Secondary/Simon Fraser University)
4. Jamie Cudmore (Squamish, BC, ASM Clermont Auvergne/PRO, Howe Sound Secondary)
5. Brian Erichsen (Winnipeg, MB, BC Bears/CRC, Meralomas, Oak Park High School/University of Winnipeg)
6. Jebb Sinclair (Fredericton, NB, The Rock/CRC, Fredericton Loyalists, Fredericton High School)
7. Chauncey O'Toole (Belleisle, NB, The Rock/CRC, Belleisle Rovers, Belleisle Regional High School)
8. Aaron Carpenter (Brantford, ON, Plymouth Albion/PRO, Brantford Harlequins, Brantford Collegiate Institute/McMaster University)
9. Ed Fairhurst (Vancouver, BC, UBC Old Boys Ravens, St. Michael's University School/University of Victoria)
10. Ander Monro (Victoria, BC, Ontario Blues/CRC, Castaway Wanderers, Glenalmond College/Edinburgh University)
11. James Pritchard (Parkes, Australia, Bedford/PRO, Randwick, Red Bend Catholic College)
12. Mike Scholz (Oakville, ON, Ontario Blues/CRC, Oakville Crusaders, Oakville Trafalgar High School/McMaster University)
13. DTH van der Merwe (Victoria, BC, Glasgow Warriors/PRO, James Bay, Dr. Martin LeBoldus)
14. Phil Mackenzie (Oakville, ON, Esher/PRO, Oakville Crusaders, Appleby College/University of Victoria)
15. Matt Evans (Duncan, BC, Unattached, Cowichan RFC, Shawnigan Lake School/Hartpury College)
16. Ryan Hamilton (West Vancouver, BC, BC Bears/CRC, Capilano, Rockridge Secondary/University of Victoria)
17. Scott Franklin (Regina, SK, Prairie Wolf Pack/CRC, Castaway Wanderers, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame/Camosun College)
18. Tyler Hotson (Vancouver, BC, Plymouth/PRO, UBC Old Boys Ravens, St. George's School/University of British Columbia)
19. Adam Kleeberger (White Rock,BC, BC Bears/CRC, University of Victoria Vikes, Semiahmoo Secondary School/University of Victoria)
20. Sean White (Victoria, BC, BC Bears/CRC, James Bay, Oak Bay High School)
21. Ryan Smith (Calgary, AB, Prairie Wolf Pack/CRC, Calgary Irish, Mayfield Secondary/University of Guelph)
22. Ciaran Hearn (Conception Bay South, NL, The Rock/CRC, Baymen RFC, Holy Spirit High School)
Head coach – Kieran Crowley
Team manager – Rodger Swany
Assistant coach – Geraint John
Forwards coach – Neil Barnes
Defence coach – Clive Griffiths
Analyst - Peter Huigenbos
Strength and conditioning coach - Matt Barr
Assistant manager – Mark Winokur
Athletic therapist - Carla Brash
Athletic therapist - Mike Recine
Massage therapist - Sara Rabinovitch
Media manager - Tom Kennedy