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Other side: Canadians out to show their fighting spirit

By Michael Sadlier

For those with long memories, the sight of Mark Cardinal burrowing over to score in Carisbrook in Dunedin was a rare moment of celebration for Canada in what turned out to be a 46-19 defeat to Ireland way back at the first World Cup in 1987.

And yet that try displayed a determination to continually battle against the odds which is still a central part of the national side's most discernible form of self-expression.

Those battling qualities will be needed again this time around. Canada have been to every World Cup but have never really come close to emulating the glory won by their 1991 squad which made it out of the pool stages before bowing out when faced by New Zealand.

And here they go again and you wonder just how an argument can be made that the game is really making progress with any decent talent having to find a way to play at a level that is not available in Canada.

Rugby over there is considered as a Tier Two set-up by World Rugby - the game's governing body - which is essentially a label given to countries who do not possess a professional domestic league but is still seen as a place where the game can grow, with the country currently having about 26,000 adult players.

Today, they meet Ireland in another tournament that won't see the Canucks do much more than target beating Romania as their only realistic goal.

Hardly surprising really for a squad which has 18 players getting their first taste of the World Cup. It's a mix of some decent professionals, along with a few playing just under the top level in England, and then those drawn from the domestic semi-professional game where the strongholds are British Colombia and Ontario.

And, yes, they do possess some notable players earning their crust overseas with the Ospreys' hard man Tyler Ardron - the skipper and very notable absentee today due to injury - along with team-mate Jeff Hassler and DTH van der Merwe, who is now with the Scarlets, being familiar names.

Not forgetting forward Jamie Cudmore - the Clermont player is taking part in his fourth World Cup and leading the Canucks today - who will give them a mean and hard edge.

He has a bit of history with a certain Paul O'Connell but, in Cardiff, Cudmore will have to curb parts of his ultra-confrontational style to provide some leadership and guidance.

Eight Canucks in today's starting side play the game within Canada's borders, as do most of the replacements, so a lot will be asked of the core leaders Cudmore and the two wingers Van der Merwe and Hassler while, of late, the side's winning form has not been much to get excited about.

Coach and former All Black Kieran Crowley knows his charges are on a hiding to nothing and, though they will come out firing, their determination will only take them so far.

No change to the norm then.

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