Canada v Ireland preview
by Ian Kennedy
June 14, 2000
The Irish should not consider this match a foregone conclusion after their massive win over the US.
Canada has a huge incentive. Ireland is the only member of the Six Nations that Canada has not beaten and Clark would dearly love to take that scalp this Saturday at Fletcher's Field's in Markham, just north of Toronto. Most predict, however, that in order to gain that victory, that Canada will have to play out of its socks and Ireland will have to have enjoyed the hosting in Canada so much, that it falls flat on its face. And, Ireland, on previous games against Canada, is capable of doing just that.
Last time Ireland came to Canada in 1989 with Willy Anderson as captain and under the dictates of coach Jimmy Davidson, that very thing nearly happened. Playing in Victoria, B.C., Ireland were losing 21-18 in the dying minutes of the test, and Canada looked poised for an historic win. Then, with the referee about to blow the final whistle, Canada failed to find touch on a clearing kick, Ireland fielded near halfway, set up a ruck, won quick ball, and fired it out to wing John Sexton who streaked for the line unopposed. Michael Kiernan kicked the conversion: Ireland 24 Canada 21.
In 1987 in Napier, New Zealand when the two met for the first time in the first World Cup Ireland was ahead by only 19-15 mid-way through the second-half before it got their act together. In the end, Keith Crossan scored two tries, Michael Bradley, Brian Spillane, John McDonald and Ringland one each while Michael Kiernan scored 19 points with a drop-goal,five conversions and two penalties for 19 points with Tony Ward hitting a penalty to win 46-19. " We knew they were well organized; now we know they have an awful lot of skill as well,"` said Irish captain Donal Lenahan, after the match.
In the only other test played between the two, Canada fared poorly at Lansdowne Road in November, 1997 losing 33-11.
Hoping to gain the win on Saturday, Canada will welcome back Newport professional prop, Rod Snow, missing from the South African test with a bout of tick fever. He suffered the bite when on safari with his touring Newport club, the week before he joined the Canada team in East London for last weekend's test. Snow's experience will surely help as, without him,Canada suffered in the sets in South Africa. Jon Thiel on the other side of Canada's front-row will have the opportunity to demonstrate to John Hayes,the Irish loose-head, how much he has learned since he last played for Canada A vs Ireland A on a wet night at Ravenhill Park, in Belfast when Ireland A prevailed 26-10.
Since then Thiel has played in fifteen internationals, and has a year of professional rugby at Narbonne under his belt.
Another interesting match-up will see two former team-mates face each other. Irish and British Lion Jeremy Davidson, and Cardiff and Canada's John Tait played together at the University of Ulster in 1993 when Tait crossed the Atlantic to attend university in Colraine.
Another Canadian who will have some mixed emotions when facing Ireland is Canada's new #8 Philip Murphy. Murphy, born in St.John's Newfoundland of Irish parents, attended school at Methodist College, Belfast and four caps as an Irish schoolboy. Murphy a strapping 6'6" 230 pound product of Canada's Pacific Sport under 23 program began his international career scoring a try, in his first of three caps, against Tonga in May and is one of the fastest #8 pick-up men in the business.
On the Irish side, reserve hooker Frank Sheehan will hope to hit the field on Saturday to be able to say he played in Toronto, the city he was born in.
Ireland make ten changes from the side that started against the USA and the team is more akin to the side that took the field in Ireland's loss to Argentina 34-23 in Buenos Aires two weeks ago. " These guys have something to prove," says Irish coach Warren Gatland. " We missed chances against Argentina, and these fellows know that. We know Canada will be a tougher game than the one against the USA, and have chosen accordingly." David Humphreys, who kicked so poorly against the Pumas, will have a chance to make amends as he reclaims the #10 jersey and centre Mike Mullens has forced his way into the starting side by virtue of his three tries against the Eagles, last weekend. Justin Fitzpatrick, Keith Woods and John Hayes make up the front-row, Mike Galwey and Jeremy Davidson the second, with Simon Easterby, Andy Ward and Anthony Foley the back-row. Asked if the team might suffer from end of season syndrome as this is the last game of a long season: Gatland replied: " It has been a long season,and the boys are bviously thinking of summer. But, they've been sharp in training and have confidence after having played well last Saturday.Nevertheless, Canada will be a tougher nut to crack than the USA. They never gave up against South Africa and we're scoring tries at the end."Canada makes four changes. Snow is in the front-row. Ed Knaggs begins in the second in place of Al Charron, missing the game for personal reasons,Gregor Dixon comes into the back-row and Mark Irvine will play wing in place of the injured Fred Asselin.
1. Rod Snow
1. Justin Fitzpatrick