James Bay's Phil Mack is in the starting line against France. Photo by Paige Stewart
James Bay’s Phil Mack is in the starting line against France.
Photo by Paige Stewart

Canada will hope to build on their impressive performance against Italy when they tackle their third pool opponent, France, in Milton Keynes on Thursday evening.

Although they lost 23-18, the statistics, spectators and pundits all pointed toward Canada deserving the win at Elland Road last weekend. To explain, the Canadians topped both the individual and team section for metres made and clean breaks.

Unfortunately they could not get over the finish line in front on Saturday, but there were plenty of positives to take into this clash with the French. One of those has certainly been the form of DTH van der merwe who has attracted praise from all quarters.

He remains in a starting side that includes six changes from the team’s last outing in Leeds as Nick Blevins and Phil Mack come into the backline while Aaron Carpenter (hooker), Brett Beukeboom (lock), Kyle Gilmour and Richard Thorpe (both flank) also start.

Missing from the XV on Thursday will be Connor Braid after his tournament-ending injury against Italy while Ray Barkwill, Jebb Sinclair, Nanyak Dala, John Moonlight and Jamie Mackenzie drop out as Kieran Crowley rotates ahead of two games in a short period.

Opponents France have enjoyed a two wins from two record so far at the World Cup, having beaten Italy and Romania, with Canada preceding what’s billed as being a pool deciding match against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday, October 11.

However they’ve not been firing on all cylinders, notably against Romania, when a half-time rant from head coach Philippe Saint-Andre broadcast on television demonstrated how much the Romanians frustrated them as the two teams went in with France 17-6 ahead.

Canada will be eager to repeat their first-half showing of last weekend in order to create a similar feeling in the French camp and with Jamie Cudmore having an inside track of Top 14 rugby and many of his club-mates, he will be a key player at Stadium MK.

One player who rarely lets France down is number eight Louis Picamoles but he is given a well-earned rest on Thursday after starting both their opening pool matches. New wing Rémy Grosso, a replacement for the injured Yoann Huget, is however a starter while Captain Thierry Dusautoir and powerful outside centre Mathieu Bastareaud return to a starting line-up that includes World Cup stalwart and France’s new all-time record points scorer Frédéric Michalak at fly-half.

Canada’s most recent meeting with France came in the 2011 Rugby World Cup when the eventual finalists ran out 46-19 winners, with Ciaran Hearn, van der merwe, Phil Mackenzie, Hubert Buydens, Jamie Cudmore and Carpenter all starting that contest in New Zealand.

Following this match, Canada will remain near the Midlands as their pool finale sees them face Romania in Leicester next Tuesday, with a strong finish the objective. Their sights are only on France at the moment though for what should be another thrilling game on English soil.

Thursday’s game can be seen LIVE on TSN. Kickoff is 3pm ET / 12pm PT.

 (Rugby Canada Release)

 

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