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Canada are poised to debut a new brand of rugby while Tonga have made a record 11 changes to their side for the Pool A match at Northland Events Centre on Wednesday 14 September.
The overall win-loss record between these teams stands at 3-2 in favour of Canada. Two of Canada's victories came in Rugby World Cup meetings - in 1987 and 2003.
With both teams realistically fighting it out with Japan for a third-place finish and automatic qualification for RWC 2015, this is a must-win match.
“It's going to be a war. No doubt about that. They've got to win, we've got to win. So it's one of those knife edge games,” Canucks' Welsh-born defensive coach Clive Griffiths said.
There are five survivors from the RWC 2003 match between these sides who will take to the Whangarei pitch. They are Canada's Jamie Cudmore, Ed Fairhurst, James Pritchard and
Ryan Smith, and Tonga’s Ephraim Taukafa.
Tonga are hoping to continue the momentum gained from a strong second-half performance in their 41-10 defeat by New Zealand at Eden Park last Friday, where they scored seven points to the All Blacks’ 12.
Even more importantly, they controlled the play with intelligent scrum work that eventually led to their 71st-minute try by prop Alisona Taumalolo.
The only problem facing the Tongans could be taking that confidence forward with the changes coach Isitolo Maka has instigated, as just four starters from that opening RWC 2011 match will line up against Canada.
“Guys who didn’t make the 22 against the All Blacks are starting this week, so it is a challenge to get them up to the same page as where we left off last Friday night,” said captain Finau Maka.
However, that should not be a problem for Taumalolo, who was the catalyst for Tonga’s fightback against the All Blacks.
Shortly after coming on as a replacement for Soane Tonga'uiha 12 minutes into the second half, he clattered into fly half Dan Carter to spark a Tonga attack and then scored their sole try – and just their second ever against the All Blacks.
Taumalolo will be Tonga’s starting loosehead prop against the Canucks on Wednesday.
The buzz around Canada’s camp is that they are ready to reveal their most balanced team of the past three Rugby World Cups.
Displaying an ever-increasing level of consistency, Canada won seven of their eight matches in 2010/11, averaging 4.5 tries per match.
Previously having relied on a strong forward pack propelling them forward, the backs now possess a more creative game, moving away from the ‘bland’ style of rugby that centre Ryan Smith admitted they played in the previous two Rugby World Cups.
The 32-year-old believes the team is keen to show their development and said: "Let's just compare the two World Cup squads that I have had, '07 and '03. Both were very heavily laden with veterans, and I think the mix on this team is a lot better.
“It's not young guys, it's not old guys, it's a very well developed side. It's more balanced, it's definitely based on form."
Wing Phil Mackenzie could be a stand-out in Whangarei. He’s difficult to miss with his newly bleached crop and orange boots, but has also scored tries in each of Canada’s last three games - two Test wins against the USA and a match with an Australian Barbarians side.
Along with another newly-blonded back, DTH van der Merwe, the pair are Canada's best attacking weapons.