EXETER, United Kingdom — Canada recovered from a slow start Saturday but could not keep up with top-ranked England, losing 50-24 in a women's rugby test match.
The two teams meet again next Saturday at London's StoneX Stadium, home of Saracens and Canadians Alex Ellis, McKinley Hunt, Emma Taylor, Maya Montiel and captain Sophie de Goede. They are also slated to meet at the WXV tournament next month in New Zealand.
The English women, who have been together for six weeks, are all on professional contracts. The fourth-ranked Canadians, who last played on July 14, had been together for about a week and there were signs of rust with handling and other errors causing problems.
Canada's defence was lacking in the early going with England running in three tries in the first 15 minutes. The Canadians answered with two tries to cut the lead to 17-12 within 20 minutes but the Red Roses kept coming and led 21-12 at the half.
The Canadians turned it up in the second half but England matched them.
"We started very poorly. We gave so much (away) — easy tries to England," said Canada coach Kevin Rouet. "We know that and the beauty of that is we're going to play them twice again so it's going to be good for us."
The victory means England retains its top spot in the world rankings over New Zealand, a position the Red Roses have held since November 2020.
England now leads the series with Canada with a 30-3-1 record.
Justine Pelletier, Tyson Beukeboom, Emily Tuttosi and Maddy Grant scored tries for Canada. De Goede booted two conversions.
Ellie Kildunne and Helena Rowland each scored two tries and captain Marlie Packer, Lucy Packer, Mackenzie Carson and Maisy Allen added singles for England. Rowland kicked five conversions.
The Canadian-born Carson grew up in Abbotsford, B.C., and won three caps for Canada including a 2018 match against England. Eligible for the Red Roses through her English-born mother, she made her England debut earlier this year.
In doing so, Carson became the first player to represent England — men or women — under World Rugby’s birthright transfer rule, which allows players to switch countries if they have spent at least three years away from international rugby.
The 24-year-old prop, who moved to England in 2019 and plays her club rugby for Gloucester-Hartpury, earned her sixth cap for the Red Roses.
Magali Harvey, named World Rugby's Women's Player of the year in 2014, came into the game in the 70th minute for her first cap in five years. The 33-year-old wing from Quebec City, who recently signed with France's Stade Bordelais, last played for the Canadian 15s team in November 2018 against Wales.
Harvey made a try-saving tackle in the 74th minute, turning on the jets to run down Claudia MacDonald at the goal-line.
The game was played at Sandy Park, home of the Exeter Chiefs, where Canadian starters Tuttosi, DaLeaka Menin and Alexandra Tessier play their club rugby.
Canada last played England in the semifinal of the World Cup in November, pushing the Red Roses to the limit before falling 26-19 in Auckland. England has now won six straight since losing 34-31 to New Zealand in the World Cup final, a defeat that ended a three-year, 30-game winning streak.
It marked England's first match since April when the Red Roses defeated France 38-33 to complete a Women's Six Nations Grand Slam.
It was also the first outing for the English women since Simon Middleton stepped down as coach. Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell will take over after the men's World Cup in France, where he is currently serving as Japan's defence coach.
Forwards coach Louis Deacon is serving as interim coach.
England has won the last 10 meetings with Canada, which last beat the Red Roses in July 2016 in Salt Lake City (52-17). The Red Roses have gone 71-5-0 since that loss, beaten four times by New Zealand and once by France.
Canada has never beaten England in 13 matches on British soil, losing 51-12 the last time they met in November 2021 in London.
The England games serve as a warmup for next month's WXV, a new three-tier annual women's 15s competition that will see the Canadians face England, No. 3 France and No. 6 Wales in a top division that also features No. 2 New Zealand, the tournament host, and No. 5 Australia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2023
The Canadian Press