Preview: Canada v Japan

Date published: June 10 2016

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Canada will be hoping to end a run of seven games without a win against Japan when the pair face off at BC Place in Vancouver on Saturday.

Their last victory over the Brave Blossoms came back in 2005, as since then two draws and five defeats have seen Japan enjoy a decent run.

Both teams come into this match without key players though so reading too much into the result is unwise. For Canada they are missing the quality of Tyler Ardron, Brett Beukeboom, Kyle Gilmour, Jeff Hassler, Phil Mackenzie, Jason Marshall, Jebb Sinclair and DTH van der Merwe. Add in Sevens commitments for Nanyak Dala, Ciaran Hearn, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, John Moonlight, Conor Trainor and Liam Underwood for the crucial Rio repechage tournament in Monaco and head coach Mark Anscombe has had a difficult task naming his first team.

Anscombe goes up against a fellow New Zealander in this game as Mark Hammett takes interim charge of Japan, amid his commitments with the Sunwolves in Super Rugby. His touring squad includes 16 from their Rugby World Cup group, 15 from the Sunwolves and five uncapped players.

However, he's missing two key players from that impressive showing last year in England: "Some were not available due to injury or lack of fitness like Michael Leitch and Ayumu Goromaru. But the make-up of the squad is still worthy of beginning a new chapter in Japanese rugby. We are counting on the younger players to gain as much international experience as possible heading towards the 2019 World Cup," he said.

Japan have certainly proved they are on their way up as a rugby nation and will hope their Super Rugby inclusion has had a knock-on effect as their players have faced quality opposition on a weekly basis. Fumiaki Tanaka and Harumichi Tatekawa starting should also help their cause.

Despite their absentees, Canada also have plenty of World Cup representatives as Jamie Cudmore captains a group that includes Ray Barkwill, Nick Blevins, Hubert Buydens, Aaron Carpenter, Matt Evans, Jake Ilnicki, Jamie Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie, Pat Parfrey, Evan Olmstead and Djustice-Sears Duru, leaving new head coach Anscombe confident his team can turn their preparations into a solid performance in Vancouver.

"The boys have come together well. We've worked them hard but they have put a lot into it and the attitude has been outstanding," he said.

"It is always exciting to get to the first game. We've had a few weeks of preparation and started developing some things and now the next level of excitement is getting to that first game and we're looking forward to it. The challenge is to play well in front of a home crowd."

After this game Canada take on Russia (Calgary) and then Italy (Toronto) while Japan head home to face Scotland in Toyota City and Tokyo.

Players to watch:

For Canada: Starting on the left wing will be Taylor Paris, who made his international debut as an 18-year-old. Since then he has played for Agen in France and his return cushions the absence of Jeff Hassler and DTH van der Merwe. Always a willing runner, Paris needs to impress.

For Japan: Centre and captain Harumichi Tatekawa has shone for the Sunwolves in Super Rugby this season and will need to get Japan on the front foot on Saturday. His fluidity with fly-half Yu Tamura and outside centre Tim Bennetts needs to be slick if Japan are to claim victory.

Head-to-head: The battle of the scrum-halves excites as Gordon McRorie has an eye for a gap but is more conservative than opposite number Fumiaki Tanaka. Tanaka once again has not had a great deal of minutes for the Highlanders this year so will be fresh and eager to shine.

Prediction: The Brave Blossoms will hope their World Cup form has carried into 2016 and with Canada's injuries, let's go Japan by 8.

Previous results:

2015: Japan won 20-6 in San Jose
2014: Japan won 34-25 in Vancouver
2013: Japan won 16-13 in Nagoya
2011: 23-23 draw in Napier
2009: Japan won 27-6 in Tokyo
2009: Japan won 46-8 in Miyagi
2007: 12-12 draw in Bordeaux
2005: Canada won 15-10 in Tokyo

The teams:

Canada: 15 Matt Evans, 14 Dan Moor, 13 Brock Staller, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Pat Parfrey, 9 Gordon McRorie, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Lucas Rumball, 6 Kyle Baillie, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Jamie Cudmore (c), 3 Jake Ilnicki, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Djustice Sears-Duru
Replacements: 16 Eric Howard, 17 Tom Dolezel, 18 Matt Tierney, 19 Paul Ciulini, 20 Matt Heaton, 21 Alistair Clark, 22 Jamie Mackenzie, 23 Mozac Samson

Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Mifiposeti Paea, 13 Tim Bennetts, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Kyosuke Horie, 7 Taiyo Ando, 6 Yoshiya Hosoda, 5 Naohiro Kotaki, 4 Kazuhiko Usami, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Futoshi Mori, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Shokei Kin, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Kosei Ono, 23 Rikiya Matsuda

Date: Saturday, June 11
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver
Kick-off: 15:00 local (22:00 GMT)
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant Referees: Kurt Weaver (USA), TBC

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