MARSEILLE, France, Nov 16 – Germany expect a bruising battle against Canada in Saturday’s crunch repechage clash for the final qualifying berth for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and Kenya are competing in a fortnight-long tournament in Marseille to claim the last place at next year’s World Cup.
The Canadians opened up with a 65-19 hammering of Kenya last Sunday before the Germans, who have never previously appeared at a Rugby World Cup, scored two late tries to grind out a 26-9 win over Hong Kong, the top seeds in the repechage.
Having picked up a bonus point in their 10-try romp against Kenya, Canada top the table by a point going into Saturday’s showdown at Marseille’s Stade Pierre-Delort.
Canada, who have qualified for all eight previous Rugby World Cup finals, are clear favourites and Germany are under no illusions.
“Canada play very similarly to Hong Kong, but they have much more experience and present a physical challenge,” said Germany’s head coach Mike Ford, who previously coached Bath and Toulon.
“We’re going into this very well prepared. The boys are confident and we’ll give it all we have.
“We’ll play the best rugby that we can.”
Germany’s defence was opened up on several occasions by fleet-footed Hong Kong wing Salom Yiu Kam Shing — something Canada’s prolific try-scorer DTH van der Merwe will be keen to repeat after claiming a hat-trick of tries against Kenya.
“I think the second half against Kenya showed we are growing as a team, and that we have the ability to put an opponent away,” said Canada’s 38-year-old hooker Ray Barkwill who will win his 55th cap against Germany.
“When we reviewed it, there were plenty of things for us to be happy about, but there were also plenty of things for us to work on to make sure we hopefully get the same result against Germany.”
Barkwill says the goal of his forwards is to get the ball in the hands of Glasgow Warriors’ Van der Merwe, who has scored 35 tries in 53 matches for Canada, as often as possible.
“At times it is a calculated team effort but, at other times, he just does something special out of nowhere,” said Barkwill.
“He has that ability and is probably our only world-class player.”
Germany forwards coach Mouritz Botha, the ex-England lock, admitted “it would be a shock if Canada did not qualify” for Japan 2019.
“We will have to react cleverly, be very disciplined and use our chances to get points when they come up,” said Botha, with Germany’s pack set to be sorely tested.