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Test Match Preview: Ireland v Canada

Test Match Preview: Ireland v Canada

Thomond Park Stadium will witness the dawn of a new era in Irish rugby on Saturday as Declan Kidney takes charge of the Ireland senior team for the first time. A vital game in terms of IRB World Ranking points, the clash with Canada will mark the Test debut of Keith Earls, the first international to be played at the redeveloped Thomond Park and Ireland’s first outing in Limerick since August 2003.

GUINNESS SERIES 2008: Saturday, November 8

IRELAND v CANADA, Thomond Park Stadium, 5.15pm (live RTE Two/BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: Ireland coach Declan Kidney has named one new cap (Keith Earls) in his team for his first match in charge, the GUINNESS Series 2008 opener against Canada.

The Irish side contains several new combinations at international level for this IRB World Ranking game.

Munster man Earls, making the step-up to senior level, will start his first international for Ireland at full-back at his home ground.

He is joined in a youthful back-three by Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney.

There is also a new midfield partnership in the team with Luke Fitzgerald and Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll linking up at centre. It will be O’Driscoll’s 49th time to lead his country.

In the pack, Munster trio Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery and Tony Buckley have all been selected in the front row, starting an international together for the first time.

Ulster’s Stephen Ferris has been named on the blindside for the game alongside Shane Jennings on the other flank.

Jennings’ Leinster team-mate Jamie Heaslip, starting at number 8, will continue where he left off during the summer tour.

The seven Irish replacements for the game were confirmed on Friday, with Alan Quinlan and David Wallace (recovered from a tooth abscess) providing extra back rower cover on the bench. Ulster’s Ryan Caldwell is the player to miss out.

Click here for profiles of the Ireland backs and here for profiles of the Ireland forwards.

Meanwhile, Canada coach Kieran Crowley has named his team for Saturday’s encounter with Ireland, making seven changes to the side that beat Portugal 21-13 in Lisbon last weekend.

They got the better of the Portuguese thanks to tries from Adam Kleeberger and James Pritchard, who also kicked a conversion and three penalty goals.

Bolstered by the arrival of their professional players from Britain and France, Canada will field an experienced and powerfully-built side against Ireland.

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.

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.

Former Edinburgh player 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.

IRELAND: Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps); Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).

Replacements: Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), John Hayes (Bruff/Munster), Alan Quinlan (Shannon/Munster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster).

CANADA: James Pritchard (Bedford Blues); Ciaran Hearn (Castaway Wanderers), Bryn Keys (Velox Valhallians), Ryan Smith (Calgary Irish), Justin Mensah-Coker (Plymouth Albion); Ander Monro (Colorno), Ed Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates); Kevin Tkachuk (Glasgow Warriors), Pat Riordan (University of Victoria Vikings) (capt), Jon Thiel (Bayside Sharks), Mike Burak (Cornish Pirates), Josh Jackson (Bordeaux Begles), Sean-Michael Stephen (Plymouth Albion), Adam Kleeberger (University of Victoria Vikings), Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins).

Replacements: Mike Pletch (Velox Valhallians), Frank Walsh (Vandals RFC), Tyler Hotson (Eastern Suburbs, Australia), Jebb Sinclair (Castaway Wanderers), Morgan Williams (James Bay Athletic Association), Matt Evans (Hartpury College), Phil Mackenzie (University of Victoria Vikings).

Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Television Match Official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 1/200; Draw: 80/1; Canada to win: 20/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Declan Kidney (Ireland) – “I’ve been lucky enough to be with Irish teams at different levels before. Any time you’re with an Irish team, it’s always been different. There’s added responsibility because you’re representing anyone that’s been born Irish in the world.

“(The rankings situation) certainly spices it up a bit. Because of the vagaries of it, it’s not totally in our control. All we can try and do is win (tomorrow).

“We’re fully aware that we can win all three matches this month and still slip down in the rankings. What goes on tomorrow at Murrayfield (between Scotland and New Zealand) will have a bearing.

“Given that that’s so far outside our control, we just need to focus in on the game tomorrow and see can we get a win.

“We’ve thrown an awful lot of information at the players and they’ve been soaking it up. I know that they’ll go out and try and do that.

“But I hope they just go out and try and be themselves and remember what got them here, because anything we’ve thrown at them is a small bit of shape.

“Like all games, it will be won or lost in the collisions. That’s the part of the game we need to get right the most and that’s the bit I’m looking forward to seeing.

“In any given game, it’s all about playing smart – there’s the way you might like to play and then there’s the smart way to play. I’m hoping we play the smart way because what’s important (tomorrow) is that we win.

“If that’s 3-0, then that’s 3-0. And if we have to play accordingly, that’s the way we’ll go about our business. The weather is the same for both sides.

“With the skills of both sides, both sides will be well able to run it but it’s about whether they pick and choose their times to run it at.

“The quality of ball at the breakdown, trying to stay on your feet at the breakdown is going to be difficult because the conditions will be that bit more greasy. It’s going to be an extra challenge to the skills of the players.

“In the conditions, it gives defence the upper hand. It makes it more difficult to attack, because it makes ball-handling slightly more precarious.

“You have to give a half-step running onto the ball, so you deepen your attacking line by half a step and obviously the defensive line can come that half-step more forward and catch you in behind the gain line unless you’re very sharp.

“That’s what the weather does, it can make attack more of a challenge.”

Kieran Crowley (Canada) – “These players will do anything you ask them to. You ask them to run through a brick wall, and they will do it.

“The team I have selected is the best team for this particular game, so we are pretty happy where we are at.

“We know it’s going to be a huge, huge step-up (from last week’s game in Portugal).

“I don’t even think it’s in the same ballpark, to be honest. We’re playing guys in this game who play rugby seven days a week and that’s their job.

“We have very few of those and the ones that we do have are a level down from where these guys are playing.

“(Against Portugal) we created a few chances in the first half that could have put the game away but we didn’t quite take them. And they scored right on half-time to keep themselves in it.

“From then, it was a little bit of a battle. It was a game where we probably had 60 or 70 percent possession or territory but we just didn’t put them away as we should have probably.

“When the pace of the game is such as it will be Saturday (against Ireland), that will be the challenge to keep the guys on task, I suppose, mentally, while we’re dealing with the physical side of things as well.

“Because they’re playing at that sort of level week in and week out and this will be the first time that a lot of our players have played at anywhere near this level.”

Click here for our pre-match multimedia.

Recent Form – Ireland – 2007/08: Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: Scotland 31 Ireland 21; Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: Ireland 23 Italy 20; Rugby World Cup Pool D: Ireland 32 Namibia 17; Rugby World Cup Pool D: Ireland 14 Georgia 10; Rugby World Cup Pool D: France 25 Ireland 3; Rugby World Cup Pool D: Ireland 15 Argentina 30; Six Nations: Ireland 16 Italy 11; Six Nations: France 26 Ireland 21; Six Nations: Ireland 34 Scotland 13; Six Nations: Ireland 12 Wales 16; Six Nations: England 33 Ireland 10; Summer Tour: New Zealand 21 Ireland 11; Summer Tour: Australia 18 Ireland 12; 2008/09:

Canada – 2007/08: Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: Canada 42 Portugal 12; Rugby World Cup Pool B: Wales 42 Canada 17; Rugby World Cup Pool B: Fiji 29 Canada 16; Rugby World Cup Pool B: Canada 12 Japan 12; Rugby World Cup Pool B: Australia 37 Canada 6; Churchill Cup Pool B: Scotland ‘A’ 24 Canada 10; Churchill Cup Pool B: Argentina ‘A’ 17 Canada 16; Churchill Cup Bowl Final: USA 10 Canada 26; 2008/09: Autumn Test: Portugal 13 Canada 21

Previous Meetings: 3 (1987 Rugby World Cup: Ireland 46 Canada 19, Carisbrook; 1997 Autumn Test: Ireland 33 Canada 11, Lansdowne Road; 2000 Summer Tour: Canada 27 Ireland 27, Markham)

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ireland to win by 15 points or more