Preview: Churchill Cup Final

Date published: June 18 2011

England Saxons coach Stuart Lancaster has made three changes for Saturday's Churchill Cup final against Canada at Sixways.

England Saxons head coach Stuart Lancaster has made three changes to his team for Saturday's Churchill Cup final clash with Canada at Sixways.

Worcester lock Graham Kitchener replaces the injured Dave Attwood while Miles Benjamin comes in for Topsy Ojo, who reverts to the bench.

The final change to the starting line-up that thumped Tonga 41-14 sees Mike Brown of Harlequins come in for Alex Goode at full-back.

“We're aware of the threat that Canada pose. They've played well in their wins against Italy A and Russia,” Lancaster said.

“They're a fit, well-coached and organised side who have spent a considerable amount of time together over the last few years.

“They will fight for the full 80 minutes so we've got a big challenge ahead of us to retain the trophy.”

Meanwhile, Canada head coach Kieran Crowley knows his team faces a tough task.

And while injury and unavailability have limited some of his selection options, Crowley has picked a mix of muscle up front and experience out back which he hopes will get the job done. The squad to face the Saxons features eight players from the starting line-up that defeated Russia 34-18 and twelve starters from Canada's 26-12 win over Italy A.

“It's the best squad available to us and it's a matter of managing the players we have,” Crowley said.

“They're ready to go. If we can match them around the set piece I believe we'll be right in this game.”

The Saxons enter the game as favourites, having lifted the trophy five times in the last nine years, and Crowley knows their forward pack will be the launching pad for their attack.

“That is a massive challenge on Saturday,” he said.

“England base a lot of their game around their scrum and they've scored four penalty tries in their first two games. We've got to work as a unit. We'll be up against a strong pack.”

Having said that, Crowley felt the Canadian forward pack handled itself well against Italy A and has named almost an identical line-up from one through eight, with the exception of the addition of Jamie Cudmore. The front row sees the return of captain Pat Riordan.

Not surprisingly, the back row of Jebb Sinclair, Chauncey O'Toole and Aaron Carpenter retain their starting jerseys, as they have in all of their team's games this tournament. The only forward in the squad unavailable for selection is Ryan Hamilton, who has been rested due too a strained knee ligament.

In the backs, both wing Justin Mensah-Coker and scrum-half Ed Fairhurst have had to return home due to work commitments. With that in mind, Sean White will return at scrum-half, pairing with Ander Monro at fly half. The remainder of the back line has been rejigged by Crowley, who feels added experience was necessary to deal with the impending threats from the Saxons. For this reason, the centres pairing has changed back to Phil Mackenzie and Ryan Smith.

Crowley said he enjoyed the dynamic centres pairing of Conor Trainor and Mike Scholz, but that Mackenzie and Smith were better fits for Saturday's game.

“The other two have done really well, but we feel with the way the English play, Smith and Mackenzie will handle it better,” he said.

“Both Conor and Scholz are inexperienced. Smith and Mackenzie bring a few more assets at this level, but on the other hand Scholz and Trainor create things.”

As well as being a rematch of last year's Churchill Cup final and an opportunity for Canada to win the tournament for the first time, Crowley said Saturday's game will be a good indication of how well the team is building toward the Rugby World Cup in September.

“I think we've made massive strides in the level of our performances. This game is going to be the biggest measurement in terms of where we are for the World Cup,” he said.

The teams:

England Saxons: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Jordan Crane (capt), 7 Tom Johnson, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Graeme Kitchener, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 David Paice, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Jamie Gibson, 19 Carl Fearns, 20 Mickey Young, 21 Alex Goode, 22 Topsy Ojo.

Canada: 15 Matt Evans, 14 Ciaran Hearn, 13 Phil Mackenzie, 12 Ryan Smith, 11 James Pritchard, 10 Ander Monro, 9 Sean White, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Brian Erichsen, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Pat Riordan (capt), 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Tiedemann, 17 Scott Franklin, 18 Tyler Hotson, 19 Nanyak Dala, 20 Jamie Mackenzie, 21 Nathan Hirayama, 22 Conor Trainor.

Date: Saturday, June 18
Kick-off: 16:30 (15:30 GMT)
Venue: Sixways Stadium