IRB Pacific Nations CUP
Canada head coach Kieran Crowley has drafted wing Matt Evans straight into his starting line-up for Wednesday’s IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2013 clash against Fiji in Ottawa.
Returning from injury, Evans joins the Canucks squad on the back of a fine season of club rugby in England with the Cornish Pirates.
The 25-year-old, who appeared at Rugby World Cup 2011, finished as the top try-scorer in the RFU Championship with 14 tries at a ratio of one per match.
Evans and centre Harry Jones are two new faces to the Canada squad that defeated USA 16-9 at a wet and windy Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton back on 25 May.
Six of the replacements that day are promoted from the bench as Crowley makes a total of eight personnel changes and one positional.
Ciaran Hearn joins fellow Canada Sevens stalwart Jones in the midfield, while Liam Underwood – making his first start at fly half – forms a half back partnership with Phil Mack.
In the forwards, prop Andrew Tiedemann and hooker Ryan Hamilton join Jason Marshall in the front row.
Jon Phelan, who came off the bench to force a couple of key turnovers in a determined rearguard action against the States, moves alongside Tyler Hotson in the second row.
Captain Aaron Carpenter will move one cap shy of his half-century after being named at number 8, while flankers Tyler Ardron, man-of-the-match against USA, and Nanyak Dala make up the back row.
With the weather set to stay fair for Wednesday’s match, the conditions in Ottawa should be much more conducive to running rugby than Canada and Fiji endured in their opening matches.
Fiji did brilliantly to score four tries in torrential rain to defeat Japan 22-8 in Lautoka on Saturday. The bonus-point victory not only moved them to the top of the embryonic PNC standings it also saw them displace Canada at number 13 in the IRB World Rankings.
“Fiji looked a different team to the one which had played in their previous two outings,” said Canada coach Crowley, in reaction to Fiji’s first run out.
“They were a lot more committed and showed a lot more enterprise.”
Canada relied heavily on full back Connor Braid to keep the scoreboard ticking over against the USA, with 11 points coming from the boot of the Doncaster Knights star.
Braid and fellow UK-based player, Glasgow wing Taylor Paris, are the only backs to retain their starting spots, as Crowley, mindful of a busy schedule which sees his side play four fixtures in four different cities in 14 days, looks to freshen things up.
“We haven’t got a professional competition in Canada so we only get the June and November international windows to see how players fare when they step up to this level,” Crowley added.
“Our team selection is based on a combination of factors: the management and development of players and what we want to get out of the game from a tactical and competition point of view.”
Crowley is looking for his side to put in an "80-minute" performance against Fiji after they dropped off as the match wore on against the USA.
“We went into half-time very pleased with the way we’d gone tactically; we’d kept the pressure on and that ultimately led to some points,” he said.
“In the second half we probably didn't play as smartly as we should have done and the USA came back into the game. It turned into a bit of a dogfight towards the end.
“In the 10 days since then we've reviewed things and hopefully the guys won’t make the same mistake again.
“We’re looking to be a lot more accurate for a longer period of time and be more consistent in our performance.”
Fiji head coach Inoke Male has made only minor changes to the team that took on Japan last week.
Akapusi Qera’s switch to number 8 to cover the absence of Netani Talei has opened up an opportunity for Malakai Ravulo to step into the back row at openside. Elsewhere in the pack, Rupeni Nasiga is bracketed with Wame Lewaravu in the second row.
Replacement scrum half Nikola Matawalu and veteran wing Sireli Bobo, who made a fairytale return to international Fifteens with a try after just 33 seconds against Japan, are also unavailable.
In the only change to the starting back line, Aisea Natoga comes in on the wing to replace Bobo, who has recently announced he will be leaving Racing Metro to see out his playing days in Japan.