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Written By: Doug Crosse
As detailed in our summer test series preview, Saturday’s match Canada plays against Russia will be the easiest of the three. With Canada smarting from a hiding at the hands of Scotland in Edmonton, and Russia licking its wounds from the 62 points the USA poured on, these are two sides with fragile psyches right now.
You need to examine how the Eagles disjointed the Bears through a large and quick backline that started hammering the gain-line early and eventually blew the 10/12 lane wide open. (Adam's descriptive piece in this week's edition covers that match-up very well, so check it out once you've read this one).
Can Canada replicate this? The answer is yes, on a more moderate scale. Nick Blevins can be a punishing runner. The best idea would be to bring Jeff Hassler’s bruising style into the backline and help win the battle to the gap. In the Pro 12, even looking for work coming off the wing, defenders would wince as he powered through time and again.
A dominating, try filled game should never be the sole goal, but this Canadian team and its long-suffering fan base would like to see a one-sided affair.
The Russians will be able to match up in the forwards, though the Canadian lineout should have the upper hand in both the height and skill of its jumpers, but also the throwing arm of Ray Barkwill, who was the stalwart for Canada last week. His relentless work rate and ability to do those frustrating little things that might be missed by the referee and his assistants are the very minutia that slow balls down, allows realignment of defensive pods, and makes the opposition do silly things out of frustration.
This upcoming game against Russia is the perfect place for the Canadian forwards to impose their physical brand of rugby, but let’s be clear, Kingsley Jones does not need a display of 10 man rugby. The forwards need to establish the platform and get some quick ball out to the edges once the centres have established themselves through the first half hour.
If Canada does not play well, they will still play well enough for a ten point victory, but if they can align both sides of the team for a common goal, hold onto the ball instead of box kicking it into eager Russian hands, it will be a biggish victory for the home side in Ottawa. The key is relentless waves of attack until the cracks appear, and then feast on the try line.
What do you think following Canada's loss to Scotland. Is there something Canada can do differently against the Russians that will ensure victory. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts.