IRELAND TAKE ON Canada in the early hours of Sunday morning and Les Kiss will be eager to hand over the coaching reins to Joe Schmidt on the back of a winning summer tour.
Following a losing Six Nations campaign, Ireland have slumped to ninth in the world rankings while their opponents, in Toronto, are up to 13th following a trio of wins over tier two rivals. Kiss said he expects an abrasive and physical Canadian effort and hopes the breakdown battle can go the way of his side.
Canada are shorn of the attacking services of Glasgow Warriors winger DTH van der Merwe and the amazing beardliness of gung-ho blindside Adam Kleeberger. They do, however possess, some bearded bruisers in the pack and a speedy backline with Sevens fliers such as Harry Jones, Phil Mack and Taylor Paris.
The winning of the game will come at scrum and breakdown time, with Irish captain Peter O’Mahony and flogged tighthead Mike Ross crucial to their chances of success. Here are three hefty Canucks that Ireland must tame if they are to go into their summer holidays on a high.
“Take that Tonga!” (INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Jebb Sinclair has earned the praise of teammates Tomás O’Leary and Ian Humphreys at Aviva Premiership side London Irish. The lock made his Canada debut in 2008 and has scored two tries (one against Tonga at the 2011 World Cup) over the course of his 27 Test caps. He can also play at flanker and faced Ireland once before, at Thomond Park five years ago.
Hotson on the charge against Japan. (Lynne Cameron/PA Wire)
The Vancouver native starts at blindside against Ireland and plays for London Scottish in the RFU Championship. The second-row has played Ireland twice, the second time was a 25-6 loss in his home town four years ago. Has impressed in recent victories over USA, Tonga and Fiji.
Buydens tries to hide his beard behind Sinclair. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Prop Hubert Buydens, a native of Saskatoon, was used off the bench in his first four matches with Kieran Crowley’s team but has since established himself as a sturdy loosehead. Buydens plies his trade with the Prairie Wolf Pack in Canada’s elite league and was linked with a move to New Zealand club side Taranaki at the beginning of the year. He should cause Mike Ross one problem; two tops.
Meanwhile, 32-year-old Ireland debutant James Downey has been speaking about the physicality Canada are expected to bring to the Test match contest:
YouTube credit: O2Rugby
Live coverage of tonight’s match starts at TG4 at 1:30am on Sunday morning