Two teams floundering at the bottom of the Americas Rugby Championship table will have a chance to right the ship at Westhills Stadium on Friday evening. Canada plays host to Chile with the Wooden Spoon more than likely headed to whoever comes up short.
It’s been a rough start to the tournament for the Canadians, who lost to both Uruguay and Brazil on the South American leg. They will be desperate to get a win on home soil but will have to do so without many leading professionals away on club duty.
Kingsley Jones has resisted wholesale changes despite the challenges with only Hubert Buydens coming from outside the squad directly into the starting lineup. All of the tight five were on Major League Rugbyduty last weekend with Toronto Arrows tighthead Cole Keith promoted to start following the return of Matt Tierney to France.
A knee injury to Luke Campbell has resulted in some shuffling in the second and back rows. Travis Larsen has been summoned from Austin with brother Josh returned, but it’s Dustin Dobravksy who instead gets the start at No8. Kyle Baillie moves to lock and Justin Blanchet is given his first start on the blindside after making his test debut as a replacement against Brazil.
The only personnel change in the backs sees Theo Sauder return to injury at fullback pushing Ciaran Hearn back inside centre. Nick Blevins bumps out one spot to outside centre to accommodate with Doug Fraser providing midfield cover on the bench.
It’s a conventional replacements list this week with five forwards and three backs. France-based hooker Benoît Pifféro is set to play his first test since the 2018 ARC, with Noah Barker and Ryan Kotlewski back to covering their preferred loosehead and tighthead props respectively. Gordon McRorie was the starting flyhalf in the Repechage but will settle for a reserve role this week.
Chile shows four changes to the team that gave a better account of itself against Uruguay. Marcelo Huerta and Augusto Böhme are given their first starts in the absence of incumbents Javier Carrasco and Tomás Dussaillant. Claudio Iturra and Maximiliano Hurtado have been called up to the bench. Both have been capped previously at tighthead but are set to cover hooker and loosehead prop respectively where they are typically found for their club sides.
Nicolás Ovalle started at tighthead against the USA but finished the Uruguay game at lock. He’ll provide extra second row cover alongside Clemente Saavedra. Captain Martín Sigren switches to the back of the scrum after playing on the flank in the opening two rounds.
Notably absent from the forwards is loose forward Ignacio Silva, whose starting place goes to Eduardo Orpis. Silva will instead prepare with the Cóndores Sevens for the North American leg of the HSBC Sevens Series. Also drafted in is winger Pablo Metuaze, while three more – Juan Pablo Larenas, Julio Blanc, and Tomás Ianiszewski – will end their ARC participation and join the Sevens side following the match.
Gonzalo Lara is fit again to resume on the left wing with Blanc starting on the right in place of Metuaze. Ianiszewski gives a bench a slightly more balanced look with two backs instead of the one from last week. Camilo Sánchez drops out to make room.
Like Canada, the Chileans are absent numerous overseas players but unlike the North Americans they do not have MLR talent to make up the numbers. Only three starters have more than 10 caps and most of the squad is in their first ARC campaign. The Cóndores showed improvement against Uruguay but taking away Dussaillant and Silva, two of their best players, is a another blow to their chances.
On paper this is Canada’s game to lose. They were poor in almost every capacity against Brazil and some players might consider themselves lucky to be retained. A response against the lowly Chileans is required and given the Cóndores have not won a match in the ARC since their very first in 2016, anything less than a convincing win from Canada despite the rainy forecast should be considered a gross disappointment.
Kickoff is set for 7:10pm local time, 10:10pm Eastern. Those in Canada can watch live on TSN 5. Others broadcast options include ESPN 3 in South American, FloRugby in the USA, and World Rugby for those based elsewhere.
1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Eric Howard, 3 Cole Keith, 4 Mike Sheppard, 5 Kyle Baillie, 6 Justin Blanchet, 7 Lucas Rumball (capt.), 8 Dustin Dobravsky, 9 Jamie Mackenzie, 10 Patrick Parfrey, 11 Kainoa Lloyd, 12 Ciaran Hearn, 13 Nick Blevins, 14 Andrew Coe, 15 Theo Sauder
Replacements: 16 Benoît Pifféro, 17 Noah Barker, 18 Ryan Kotlewski, 19 Conor Keys, 20 Nakai Penny, 21 Will Percillier, 22 Gordon McRorie, 23 Doug Fraser
1 Marcelo Huerta, 2 Augusto Böhme, 3 Matías Dittus, 4 Javier Eissmann, 5 Bastián Burguener, 6 Eduardo Orpis, 7 Thomas Orchard, 8 Martín Sigren (capt.), 9 Juan Pablo Larenas, 10 Francisco González Moller, 11 Gonzalo Lara, 12 Vicente Ayarza, 13 José Ignacio Larenas, 14 Julio Blanc, 15 Christian Huerta
Replacements: 16 Claudio Iturra, 17 Mauricio Gómez, 18 Maximiliano Hurtado, 19 Nicolás Ovalle, 20 Clemente Saavedra, 21 Jaden Laing, 22 Domingo Saavedra, 23 Tomás Ianiszewski
Date: Friday, February 22
Venue: Westhills Stadium, Langford
Kickoff: 19:10 local (22:10 Eastern)
Referee: Henrique Platais (CBRu)
Assistants: Robin Kaluzniak (RC) & Chris Assmus (RC)
TMO: David Smortchevsky (RC)
Broadcasts: ESPN 3 (South America), FloRugby (USA), TSN 5 (Canada), World Rugby