Canada plot damage limitation exercise
June 11, 2007
While the All Blacks hope to avoid any more pre-rugby World Cup injury setbacks, the Canadian cannon fodder they face in Hamilton on Saturday are pinning their hopes on damage limitation.
Canada arrived here yesterday without some of their kit and any preconceived notions of providing anything more than nuisance value at Waikato Stadium, the last instalment of a predictable early season programme that has already seen France concede 104 points in 120 minutes of lopsided rugby.
The world's No 13-ranked side's primary goal is to deny the All Blacks another century before they depart for the their first genuine test, a Tri-Nations match against the Springboks in Durban on June 23.
Canadian captain Morgan Williams accepts his side are in a no-win situation but they are relishing the opportunity to play top class opposition to prepare for a World Cup group stage that pits them against Australia, Wales plus fellow minnows Japan and Fiji.
"We're kind of stuck with playing the US and the `A' sides in the Churchill Cup, you need to play against top opposition," he said here today.
"That's how I learned in '99. We played England and Wales before the World Cup ... it's a great stepping stone."
Williams is one of only five survivors from the last time the All Blacks played Canada, a 68-6 win for New Zealand four years ago in Melbourne.
"A lot of the guys will be in awe, standing in front of the haka -- it's a scary time but they'll learn a lot.
"We'll see what we're going to be up against in France first hand on Saturday.
"The guys will say `jesus' but this is what we have to do, we might as well get a taste of it," said the halfback, who ended his club career with French side Albi last month.
Encouraged by a 52-10 drubbing of the United States in the Churchill Cup, Canada accept they could be on receiving end of a potentially worse hiding if their tackling was not accurate.
"We haven't arrived here with any ideas of grandeur," Williams said.
"It'll probably be 80 minutes of defence. We can't beat them but we'll try and keep the score respectable.
"When you go against the All Blacks ... you just hope to play the best that you can and work on things that are going to take us through to the World Cup."
The Canadians can at least boast a superior preparation to the French, who basically got acquainted at the departure lounge before arriving here on the Tuesday before the first test.
Canada had three games at the Churchill Cup in England -- heavy defeats to New Zealand Maori and Ireland A before the morale boosting win over the US in the playoff for fifth.
Meanwhile, Canada have their own locking crisis to contend with after the team's most experienced player, Mike James, a member of newly-crowned French club champions Stade Francais, withdrew from the tour.
The 51-cap veteran and fellow lock Jamie Cudmore, who played for beaten finalists Clermont-Auvergne in the climax of the Top 14 last weekend, were expected to join the tour party late, but given their arduous seasons in Europe and the travel time involved they have been excused.
Josh Jackson and Oliver Atkinson, who also ply their trade in France at Bordeaux-Begles, are the replacements.