Planet Rugby

Preview: Scotland v Canada

21st November 2008 07:16

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John Barclay 2008

My time: Barclay is making the seven shirt his own

Earlier this week Scotland's Hugo Southwell spoke of using Saturday's game against Canada as a springboard for next year's Six Nations, and why not?

This would after explain why Frank Hadden has named the strongest possible side available, barring a few injuries, for what is, with all due respect to Canada, pretty much a 'gimme'. Both Ireland and Wales fielded second-string sides for the same fixture, but not Scotland.

Hadden's primary objective is to secure a comfortable win that will give his side the best possible chance of making it into the top eight of the IRB's world rankings. But with the Six Nations just around the corner there is the need to settle a few positional debates and find some fluidity in the side.

It would appear, even at this stage, that Hadden has a starting XV in mind, and it is his desire to give them as much game time together as possible. One thing the new World Cup seeding system has ensured is that sides don't field weak sides, which has been the tendency in the past at this time of year.

But regardless of that, one feels Scotland would still have gone with their first choice this weekend, even if just to rid themselves of the haunting memories of last weekend's agonising defeat to South Africa, not to mention the drubbing against the All Blacks the week before.

Rugby is very much a confidence game, and Scotland's has been a little frail for some time now, hence the importance of winning their last game before the Six Nations - which is what really counts - by a comfortable margin.

Canada will present a stubborn challenge, as they did in Ireland (to an extent) and Wales, and will themselves want to end their tour on a high note. It has been a tough tour for Canada, who opted to bring a largely experimental side, and Saturday does represent their best chance of a victory over one of the world's leading nations.

That said it is difficult, given that most are semi-professional, to see how they will compete for the full eighty minutes. Adrenalin and passion will get you so far, maybe even as far as the sixty-minute mark, but only being a full-time professional will get you to the finish.

Alas Canada will fall short on Saturday, but just by how much is yet to be seen. They have, as we saw in Cardiff, the ability to frustrate sides and in turn live off their mistakes. Which means Scotland's minds will need to be at their sharpest, as to become frustrated is a mental weakness, not a physical one.

Last weekend's defeat to South Africa will have been a bitter pill to swallow, none more so than for Phil Godman. Thus the perfect tonic, as Scotland take their series on the road to Aberdeen, is a stylish victory over Canada.

One to Watch:

For Scotland: An extended run in the side, albeit due to slightly fortuitous circumstances, but John Barclay seems to have made the openside jersey his own. Another stellar display against Canada and the young Glasgow flank can look back on a very good year, knowing he has the Six Nations not too far away. His could do with being a little bigger, but what he lacks in physical presence he more than accounts for in skill and know-how.

For Canada: He has been around for a few years now and has, as of yet, not realised his true potential. Saturday gives Justin Mensah-Coker, a wing with real pace, another chance to announce himself as a decent Test player. Up against the wily Simon Webster he should have a tough time of it, but with pace to burn and footwork Fred Flintstone would be proud of he has the skill to make his mark finally.

Head-to-Head: The battle of the two captains, and respective scrum-halves, will be an interesting battle. Mike Blair is pushing not only for a Scotland victory but also a place on the British and Irish Lions tour next year. As it stands he is doing a fine job, but will, for peace of mind, want another solid performance to enhance his claim. He will be up against Ed Fairhurst, once of Cardiff Blues, who is no fool. Granted he may have his limitations, but he is aware of them and plays rugby accordingly. He will have his hands full against Blair, but should also pose a few questions of his own.

Previous Results:

2002: Canada won 26-23, Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver

1995: Scotland won 22-6, Murrayfield

Prediction: Frank Hadden has left nothing to chance here, and thus one expects a sizeable Scottish victory. Canada will have other ideas, but in truth they will do well to limit the winning margin to twenty points. Scotland by twenty-five..

The Teams:

Scotland: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Simon Webster, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Nick De Luca, 11 Nikki Walker, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair (c), 8 Simon Taylor, 7 John Barclay, 6 Al Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.

Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Matt Mustchin, 19 Scott Gray, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Max Evans.

Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Sean Duke, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Ryan Smith, 11 Justin Mensah-Coker, 10 Matt Evans, 9 Ed Fairhurst (c), 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Adam Kleeberger, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Josh Jackson, 4 Tyler Hotson, 3 Scott Franklin, 2 Mike Pletch, 1 Kevin Tkachuk.

Replacements: 16 tbc, 17 Frank Walsh, 18 Mike Burak, 19 Sean Michael Stephen, 20 Morgan Williams, 21 Nathan Hirayama, 22 Bryn Keys.

Date: Saturday, November 22

Venue: Pittodrie, Aberdeen

Kick-off: 14:45 GMT

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

Touch judges: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Steve Terheege (England)

Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)

By Marcus Leach

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