Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Canada boss Crowley reverts to power

While Declan Kidney has gone for youthful vigour for his first game in charge, it is not a luxury afforded to his Canadian counterpart Kieran Crowley.

Former All Black Crowley, who guided the New Zealand Under-19s to the World Championship in Belfast in April 2007, has gone for experience having made seven changes to the side that defeated Portugal in Lisbon last weekend.

Tries from Adam Kleeberger and James Pritchard, who kicked a conversion and three penalty goals secured a 21-13 victory over Portugal.

But Crowley’s squad has since been bolstered by the arrival of their professional players from Britain and France, which has allowed the Kiwi to pack his side with experience and power.

Hooker Pat Riordan, set for his 18th Test start, will captain the Canucks from the front row, alongside Glasgow Warriors prop Kevin Tkachuk and veteran Jon Thiel.

Thiel is one of the changes in the pack, replacing Mike Pletch. There is a new second row combination in Mike Burak (6ft 7in) and Josh Jackson (6ft 6in).

Sean Michael Stephen is also in ahead of Andrew Fagan to take the blindside flanker berth.

In the backs, there are three changes. The pacy Justin Mensah-Coker, a team-mate of Stephen's at Plymouth Albion, has been preferred to Dean Van Camp on the left wing.

Ciaran Hearn will start for the first time on the right wing, with Phil Mackenzie dropping to the replacements bench, while Canada's 2007 Rugby World Cup captain Morgan Williams, who is back out of retirement, has been kept in reserve – Ed Fairhurst will start in his place at scrum half.

Ander Monro is fit to start at number 10 after recovering from the lower leg strain he sustained against Portugal. The uncapped Matt Evans provides out-half cover on the bench.

The Canadians flew into Ireland last Sunday and have been training at Garryowen FC this week. And Crowley said that despite having to bring some new faces in for this second week, it has been a relatively seamless process.

“The new guys have been great – getting stuck right in – and understanding what we are trying to achieve,” Crowley said. “It is a big test of this team and we have to see if the systems we are putting in place will stand up to what Ireland has to offer.”

CANADA: J Pritchard; C Hearn, B Keys, R Smith, J Mensah-Coker; A Monro, E Fairhurst; K Tkachuk, P Riordan, J Thiel (Bayside Sharks); M Burak, J Jackson, SM Stephen, A Kleeberger, A Carpenter. Replacements: M Pletch, F Walsh, T Hotson, J Sinclair, M Williams, M Evans, P Mackenzie.

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