The Big Pictures
Canada begin their Rugby World Cup campaign in good heart. They have set a goal of finishing third in the pool – which also features New Zealand, Namibia and South Africa – a position that would guarantee their place at France 2023 and release greater funding.
Coach Kingsley Jones, who leads Canada in the World Cup for the first time, gives tournament debuts to eight of his team.
Four years ago Canada met Italy at Elland Road, in Leeds, pictured, and raced into a 10-0 lead before Italy came back to win 23-18.
They will need a similarly powerful start if they are to have any chance of finishing third.
“The loss was heartbreaking,” centre Nick Blevins said. “The guys played so well.
“It can be done. We’ve played many close games with them (Italy) in recent history so we just need the belief that we can beat them.”
🇨🇦 v 🇮🇹- Sept 26 (correction to the previous tweet)
⏱️3:45am ET/ 12:45am PT
📺 @TSN_Sports 1, 3, & 4
— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) September 24, 2019
Italy start as Pool B leaders thanks to their bonus-point win over Namibia.
The 47-22 result disguises the fact that for much of the first half the southern Africans caused Conor O’Shea’s team problems and opened the scoring through scrum-half Damian Stevens.
The Italians secured the bonus point early in the second half, by which time several of their leading players had been substituted.
Flanker Braam Steyn, scrum-half Tito Tebaldi, fly-half Tommaso Allan and full-back Jayden Hayward all went off before the hour mark to allow their replacements some game time and to ensure they were in the best shape possible for meeting Canada in four days time.
“We said in the changing room after the match that we weren’t satisfied,” O’Shea said. “We scored seven tries and wasted another seven or eight, which shows we can create tries.
“We wasted chances, but we created chances. It is in the past.”
Form Guide (most recent match first)
Italy – WLLWL
Canada – LLLLL
Head to Head
Played 9 – Italy 7W – Canada 2W
— Italrugby (@Federugby) September 24, 2019
In the Spotlight
DTH van der Merwe has mixed memories of the defeat by Italy four years ago after he began and finished a flowing counter-attack to score between the posts.
He will begin in the No.11 shirt again and has continued to add to his Canadian record try tally that stands at 38, with two tries in his three internationals in 2019.
Japan 2019 is the 33-year-old’s fourth World Cup and this will be his 13th consecutive World Cup match.
“It’s a huge honour to play for Canada,” he said. “Looking back at my 2007 campaign, I was one of the youngsters in the group.
“I didn’t quite expect to play in all four games, but Justin Mensah-Coker, one of the wingers, went out with a hamstring injury so that gave me the opportunity… to start every game.”
Fly-half Peter Nelson continues his remarkable rise. The 26-year-old, who made his Canada debut in July, will team up with scrum-half Gordon McRorie.
Number eight Tyler Ardron will captain the team, while further forward in the pack Josh Larsen starts after replacing Justin Blanchet, who was ruled out with concussion.
Italy coach O’Shea has made 10 changes to the team that beat Namibia, three of them positional. Tommaso Benvenuti moves from centre to winger, Jayden Hayward switches to centre from full-back, while Braam Steyn moves around the back-row from flanker to number eight.
Dean Budd takes over as captain from the rested Sergio Parisse and will form a second-row partnership with David Sisi.
Stats and Trivia
If Canada winger DTH Van der Merwe scores a try, he will join Jonah Lomu (NZL) as the only player to score in five consecutive World Cup matches.
Italy’s David Sisi was born in Rinteln in Germany and by starting he will become the first German-born player to feature in a Rugby World Cup match.
“We want to be identified as a team that is a nightmare to play against. We want to keep teams under pressure, involve our kicking game and then stay on top through an attack. Pressure and intent is our identity.” – Canada fly-half Patrick Parfrey.
“It was a choice we made before the first match to balance out the teams over the two matches. We did it during the warm-up matches. I have confidence in all our players and all our players are worth a place in the team. This is the best team for the match.” – Italy coach Conor O’Shea.