Canada bidding for a hat-trick of PNC wins
James Pritchard has Tonga in his sights on Saturday after returning to the Canada team
Canada meet Tonga for the first time since Rugby World Cup 2011 as the Pacific Nations Cup continues in Kingston on Saturday.
Three of the mainstays from that 25-20 win in New Zealand are included in coach Kieran Crowley’s starting line-up this weekend.
Veteran full back, James Pritchard, who kicked 10 points in the RWC 2011 clash, is handed the number 15 jersey after completing his club commitments with Bedford Blues in England.
Number 8 and captain Aaron Carpenter and fellow back row, Jebb Sinclair, both try scorers in Whangarei just under two years ago, are also included in the side for Saturday’s eagerly-awaited fixture, although wing Phil Mackenzie, who clinched the shock win with a last-gasp score is not available.
Carpenter will win a landmark 50th cap, while London Irish star Sinclair is rewarded for the impact he made when coming off the bench in the 20-18 success over Fiji on Wednesday.
Only 13 men’s players have reached Canada’s half-century club, including: Al Charron, Gareth Rees, Morgan Williams, Kevin Tkachuk, Scott Stewart, Winston Stanley, Rod Snow, Ed Fairhurst, Mike James, Bob Ross, John Graf, Ryan Smith and John Hutchinson.
“Obviously it’s a huge honour to hit the 50-cap mark and join those who have done it before me, but my focus is on Saturday’s test and getting a win against Tonga,” said Carpenter.
The narrow win over Fiji in Ottawa lifted Canada to the top of the PNC standings and they will be looking for a third straight competition win on home soil before concluding their fixtures with a tricky trip to Japan on Wednesday June 19.
Saturday’s starting roster includes 10 changes from the Fiji Test, as only Carpenter and fellow forwards Jason Marshall and Tyler Hotson and backs Ciaran Hearn and Matt Evans remain in the first 15.
Canada are on a three-match winning streak against Tonga, who opened their PNC 2013 campaign with a well-deserved 27-17 win over Japan in Yokohama on May 25.
A bonus-point victory at the Richardson Stadium tomorrow night would guarantee Tonga top spot in the PNC table, while a regulation win would be enough unless Canada claim two bonus points from the tie.
Winger Fetu’u Vainikolo, Tonga’s two-try hero a fortnight ago, is one of nine players to retain their place in coach Mana Otai’s starting line-up.
Fly half Kurt Morath, scorer of 134 points in nine previous PNC matches, steps up from the bench to form a half back partnership with Taniela Moa.
Canada: 15. James Pritchard; 14. Matt Evans, 13. Ciaran Hearn, 12. Nick Blevins, 11. Sean Duke; 10. Nathan Hirayama, 9. Sean White; 1. Hubert Buydens, 2. Ray Barkwill, 3. Jason Marshall, 4. Brett Beukeboom, 5. Tyler Hotson, 6. Jebb Sinclair, 7. John Moonlight,8. Aaron Carpenter (captain).
Replacements: 16. Ryan Hamilton, 17. Doug Wooldridge, 18. Tom Dolezel, 19. Nanyak Dala, 20. Tyler Ardron, 21. Phil Mack, 22. Liam Underwood, 23. Pat Parfrey.
Tonga: 15. Viliami Hakolo; 14. Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13. Siale Piutau, 12. Sione Piukala, 11. Will Helu; 10. Kurt Morath, 9. Taniela Moa; 1. Edmund ‘Aholeei, ‘Ilaisa Ma’asi, 3. Taione Vea, 4. ‘Emosi Kauhenga, 5. Tukulua Lokotui, 6. Hale T Pole, 7. Nili Latu (captain), 8. Viliami Fihaki.
Replacements: 16. Elvis Taione, 17. Kamaliele Sakala, 18. Sila Puafisi, 19. Josh Afu, 20. Paula Kaho, 21. Thomas Palu, 22. Viliame ‘Iongi, 23. David Halaifonua