Ireland v Canada
Canucks name side to face Irish
November 5, 2008
Canada coach Kieran Crowley has named Glasgow Warriors prop Kevin Tkachuk in his XV to face Ireland at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
The 40-times capped front row features in a team captained by hooker Pat Riordan and bolstered by the arrival of a number of Canada's pro players from the UK and France.
After a tour opening 21-13 win over Portugal in Lisbon this past Saturday, Crowley are preparing for their first match under the new Experimental Law Variations and their first clash with Ireland since a 27-27 draw in Toronto in 2000.
"It is a big test of this team - that is why they are called Tests - and we have to see if the systems we are putting in place will stand up to what Ireland has to offer," said Crowley. "The new guys have been great - getting stuck right in - and understanding what we are trying to achieve."
The front row is heavy with experience with veteran Jon Thiel at tighthead packing down for his 34th internationals appearance. In the second row the big men of the Canadian forwards unit are getting the call with Cornish Pirate Mike Burak and Begles Bordeaux lock Josh Jackson starting.
In the back row Plymouth Albion's Sean Michael Stephen will look to wreak havoc on the Irish from the blind side flanker position alongside the highly mobile Adam Kleeberger who hits his 10th start. At No.8 - Brantford's Aaron Carpenter continues to impress after a busy afternoon against the Portuguese.
Pirates scrum-half Ed Fairhurst takes the No.9 jersey from its interim holder - the newly un-retired Morgan Williams, who had a solid 80 minutes against Los Lobos. Fairhurst will combine with Colorno's Ander Monro - who came out of the game against Portugal with a lower leg strain but is now fully on mended. It is Monro's 9th Canada appearance.
In the centre's Ryan Smith will play in his 39th test - the most in the Canadian backline. Simth will partner with Bryn Keys who win his third cap.
On the wing the lanky and fast Justin Mensah Coker will make his for his 11th start. On the opposite wing Newfoundland's Ciarn Hearn wins his first start - making his progression in the 2008 remarkable with his debut in sevens - and his ascension for the Canada East squad in the North America Four.
The replacements bench offers a variety of cover - with 12 times capped Mike Pletch covering either a prop or hooker requirement, while uncapped Frank Walsh is looking to be the second new cap of the day and third in a week from that eastern province after flanker Andrew Fagan started against Portugal last Saturday.
Tyler Hotson will provide second row cover, while Jebb Sinclair of Fredericton, New Brunswick, will look to add another test appearance to his resume after covering two replacements last week against Los Lobos. He replaced Fagan for a blood substitution, setting up Adam Kleeberger for a try during his ten minutes on the pitch, and then replaced Stu Ault in the second row with twenty minutes to go.
Williams will be the cover at scrum-half - looking to get his cap count to an impressive 53. Uncapped Matt Evans - a 20 year old fly-half who plays at England's Hartpury College, impressed in a Canada A selection against Gloucester RFC this past August. Coverage for the wing comes in the form of Phil Mackenzie - who won his first international cap last weekend against Portugal.
The coach insists team culture is a big part of any side he has been involved with - and he uses a variety of ways to impart that bonding which he feels is essential to the long term goals he has for Canada as preparations begin for the 2011 World Cup in his native New Zealand.
"You need to care about the people you play with on a rugby field, and feel that need to be there for each other," Crowley said. "It's not enough to just turn up and put the jersey on, you have to believe in the guys in that locker room - and know they will be there for you when things get tough. These guys aren't there yet - but I sense they are getting close."
Canada team to face Ireland at Thomond Park, Limerick, on November 8:
James Pritchard, Ciaran Hearn, Bryn Keys, Ryan Smith, Justin Mensah-Coker, Ander Monro, Ed Fairhurst; Kevin Tkachuk, Pat Riordan, Jon Thiel, Mike Burak, Josh Jackson, Sean Michael Stephen, Adam Kleeberger, Aaron Carpenter.
Replacements: Mike Pletch, Frank Walsh, Tyler Hotson, Jebb Sinclair, Morgan Williams, Matt Evans, Phill Mackenzie.