Canada v US Eagles, Toronto, August 6, 2011
Canucks out to make an impression
August 4, 2011
Taku Ngwenya is the shining light in the US Eagles ranks © Getty Images
Canada will hope to continue their impressive 2011 Churchill Cup form against the US Eagles in Toronto on Saturday with both sides looking to put down a marker ahead of the imminent World Cup.
The match is the first of two back-to-back Tests between the two sides with the USA hosting the return leg in Glendale next Saturday. With the World Cup around the corner both coaches will be looking for their charges to impress at the BMO Stadium - which will host Canada for the first time. Canada have already named their World Cup squad while Eddie O'Sullivan has named a reduced 36-man group ahead of the final squad announcement.
Canada name the same pack which featured in the final of the Churchill Cup and will be skippered by influential hooker Pat Riordan. Elsewhere Ed Fairhurst will earn his 51st cap for Canada on Saturday. The squad's current high-scorer James Pritchard also comes back into the side hoping to add to his current tally of 12 for the Canucks.
With the World Cup around the corner, US Eagles coach O'Sullivan has named a strong side which includes Biarritz flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya. The Eagles were undone in the Churchill Cup and with O'Sullivan opening his World Cup campaign against his previous side Ireland, he will hope to put down a marker on Saturday. Despite calling on some of his more experienced charges, Saracens' Chris Wyles will miss the clash to recover from an ankle problem.
Canada - Player to Watch: Scrum-half Fairhurst will hope to make an impression to coach Kieran Crowley after he was forced to return home to Canada prior to their Churchill Cup final against England due to work commitments. With the World Cup around the corner, Fairhurst looks almost certain to be their starting scrum-half but with Sean White snapping at his heels, the 32-year old will need to be on his A game come Saturday.
Canada - Team News: Canada have named the same pack which lost in the Churchill Cup final against England with Jamie Cudmore their enforcer in the second-row. Fairhurst comes back into the side at scrum-half and will be partnered by Ander Monro. James Pritchard and Esher's Phil Mackenzie start on the wing while Glasgow's DTH Van der Merwe moves inside to the outside centre berth. Matt Evans will guide the side from fullback.
US Eagles - Player to Watch: All eyes will be on electric winger Ngwenya. The Biarritz man shone during the 2010-11 season - notably scoring a hat-trick against Gloucester - and will hope to emulate his form from the 2007 World Cup which saw him catapulted onto the world stage.
US Eagles - Team News: The Eagles will be led by Todd Clever from the flank alongside Louis Stanfill and Nic Johnson. Former Bath second-row John van der Giessen starts in the engine room alongside Saracens' Hayden Smith. The experienced Mike Petri starts at scrum-half where he will be partnered by Nese Malifa at fly-half. Paul Emerick anchors the centres alongside Andrew Suniula. Blaine Scully and Agen's Kevin Swiryn complete the back three.
Key Battle: Cudmore keeps his place in the engine room and US Eagles lock Van der Giessen will have his hands full come Saturday. Both locks look fairly assured of a place in the starting XV for their respective country come the World Cup but with Van der Giessen reported as 'unattached' ahead of the tie - he will be out to impress in Toronto.
Trivia: US Eagles wing Ngwenya - who famously outpaced Bryan Habana during the 2007 World Cup - notches a time of 10.5 seconds for the 100m.
Stats: Canada have edged the Test matches between the two sides in Toronto winning two of their three match-ups.
"There's a lot of people and players who work extremely hard across the country. They don't get paid much, they don't get any recognition, but they do it for love of the game. It's too bad. It's a great sport. Hopefully on Saturday with a good showing by us, we can start to change that."
"The rivalry we have with Canada is extremely fierce and we are very excited to face them in Toronto and get our RWC campaign underway."
Prediction: Canada will hope to continue their impressive form from the 2011 Churchill Cup though will be up against a wounded US Eagles side. Expect a physical encounter with the Canucks prevailing by a seven point margin.
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