Trio of veterans lead Canadians to Rugby World Cup opener in New Zealand
Tyson Beukeboom, Elissa Alarie and Karen Paquin kick off their third Rugby World Cup on Saturday when third-placed Canada take on 13th-placed Japan in Group B at the Northland Events Center in Whangarei, New Zealand.
Beukeboom (50 caps), Alarie (41 caps) and Paquin (32 caps) bring veteran know-how to the table of a side whose 23-woman roster includes 15 players making their World Cup debuts.
Tournament debutants include captain Sophie de Goede, a 23-year-old rising star who will earn her 15th cap for Canada.
While top-seeded England are heavy favorites in the tournament with second-placed New Zealand Black Ferns also in the mix, third-placed Canada will hope to change the odds.
“I won’t claim to have the experience yet to know exactly what it takes to win a World Cup, but I think we have a group that can do it from what our more experienced players are saying.” , said de Goede, who plays No 8. “They think we have a very good chance in our analysis of other teams.”
England, double champion and five times vice-champion, will however be difficult to beat. The Red Roses are on a 25-game winning streak and have not been beaten since a 28-13 loss to New Zealand in July 2019.
The Black Ferns are defending champions, beating England 41-32 in the 2017 final.
England showed how far ahead they were of the opposition at the end of 2021 when they beat New Zealand 43-12 and 56-15 before hammering Canada 51-12 and the United States 89-0.
The Red Roses outscored their opponents 282-22 in winning the Women’s Six Nations Tournament earlier this year.
Canada have participated in all eight previous editions of the tournament, finishing second to England in 2014. The Canadians finished fourth in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Canada finished fifth at the last World Cup in 2017. This tournament was originally scheduled to start last September but was postponed due to the pandemic.
After Japan, the Canadians will face fifth-ranked Italy on October 15 and sixth-ranked United States on October 22, both in Auckland.
Taylor Perry will lead the Canadian guards on Saturday in her role as fly half with Brianna Miller at scrum half. Miller also serves as a placekicker with de Goede available as needed for range kicks.
Perry excels at connecting her teammates, according to coach Kevin Rouet. Julie Schell offers a different take on the No.10 from the bench, offering a creative take on the attacking back.
“What I like with this team is that every time I think of someone, the profile is different,” said the French-born Rouet, who now lives in Quebec. “Sometimes it’s good to have a lot of players who don’t bring the same gear.”
Speed in the backs comes from wings Maddy Grant and Paige Farries.
The Pacific Four Series in June gave Canadians a taste of what to expect at the World Cup. They finished runners-up to New Zealand, picking up wins over the United States (36-5) and No. 7 Australia (22-10) around a 28-0 loss to the Black Ferns.
“A lot of learning, of course,” de Goede said of the Pacific Four competition.
“I think the loss to New Zealand was a tough pill to swallow… It highlighted some areas of work and focus to improve for us,” she added.
Canada have won three games in a row since that tournament, beating Italy 34-24 and No. 9 Wales 31-3 in Langford, B.C., and Halifax, respectively, before beating No. 21 Fiji. ) 24-7 in Suva en route to the World Cup.
The Canadians showed an effective maul in the build-up to the World Cup with forwards able to rumble forward almost at will.
“A real weapon,” said de Goede.
Saturday’s game marks Canada’s 150th Women’s Test match.
Kick-off is 7:15 p.m. PT Saturday in Canada – 3:15 p.m. local time Sunday in New Zealand.
Canada departure training
Brittany Kassil, Guelph, Ont., Guelph Redcoats; Emily Tuttosi, Souris, Man., Calgary Hornets/Exeter Chiefs (England); DaLeaka Menin, Vulcan, Alta., Calgary Hornets/Exeter Chiefs (England); Courtney Holtkamp, Rimbey, Alta., Red Deer Titans; Tyson Beukeboom, Uxbridge, Ont., Cowichan RFC; Fabiola Forteza, Quebec, Quebec Rugby Club; Karen Paquin, Quebec, Quebec Rugby Club/Les Lionnes du Stade Bordelais (France); Sophie de Goede (captain), Victoria, Castaway Wanderers RFC; Brianna Miller, Pointe-Claire, QC, RFC Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue; Taylor Perry, Oakville, Ont., Oakville Crusaders; Paige Farries, Red Deer, Alta., Worcester Warriors (England); Alexandra Tessier, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Quebec, RFC Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue; Sara Kaljuvee, Ajax, Ont., Toronto Scottish; Maddy Grant, Cornwall, Ont., University of Ottawa; Elissa Alarie, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Westshore RFC.
Gillian Boag, Calgary, Capilano RFC; Mikiela Nelson, North Vancouver, UBC Rugby/Capilano Rugby; Alex Ellis, Ottawa, Barrhaven Scottish/Saracen (England); Ngalula Fuamba, Notre Dame de-l’ile-Perrot, Que., Town of Mount Royal RFC; Emma Taylor, Scotsburn, NS, Halifax RFC; Gabrielle Senft, Regina, Castaway Wanderers/Regina Rogues/Exeter Chiefs (England); Justine Pelletier, Rivière-du-Loup, Que., Quebec Rugby Club; Julia Schell, Uxbridge, Ont., Guelph Redcoats/Castaway Wanderers.
—Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press