Conditions could be a factor in Canada-U. S. Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in Auckland

With heavy rain in the forecast for Auckland, Canada coach Kevin Rouet isn't expecting Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against the U.S. to be a thing of beauty.

"It's going to change the dynamic of the game for sure," said Rouet, pointing to his forwards and the kicking game as possible key factors in the contest at Waitakere Stadium.

"It could be not the prettiest game," the French-born coach added. "But this is a quarterfinal so you have to adapt to any weather conditions."

Perhaps in anticipation of a hard-nosed battle between two physical packs, Rouet has seven forwards in reserve on his bench with Anais Holly the lone replacement back.

The sun was shining last weekend when the third-ranked Canadians (3-0-0) defeated the seventh-ranked Americans 29-14 to win Pool B and move into the knockout round as the second seed. The Americans (1-2-0) advanced as one of the two best third-place finishers in the 12-team tournament.

Canada has had the upper hand of late over its North American rival, winning six straight over the U.S. since 2019.

“Last week was full of drama, big collisions with lots of exciting rugby, and some key learnings for both teams who share an intense rivalry," said U.S. coach Rob Cain. "We very much expect this weekend to offer even more and we know we will have to be even better, as too will Canada.

"We are happy to be at this stage of the tournament, but we aren't satisfied just yet. (Saturday) is a real opportunity for this group," he added.

In the other weekend quarterfinals, it's fourth-ranked France versus No. 5 Italy, No. 2 New Zealand versus No. 9 Wales and No. 1 England versus No. 6 Australia.

The Canada-U. S. winner will likely face tournament favourite England in the semifinals. The Red Roses hammered No. 13 South Africa 75-0 in their final pool game to extend their winning streak to 28 games — a run that dates back to a 28-13 loss to New Zealand in July 2019 and includes a 51-12 decision over Canada last November.

Rouet has made two changes to his starting 15, slotting in veteran prop Olivia DeMerchant and flanker Fabiola Forteza.

DeMerchant was on the bench last weekend after starting against Italy, becoming just the seventh Canadian woman to earn 50 caps. Forteza was rested after starting the first two pool games.

Lock Tyson Beukeboom will move into third place on the Canadian women's caps list if she comes off the bench to earn her 54th cap.

Olivia Apps, who joined the team after scrum half Brianna Miller was ruled out for the rest of the tournament, could make her 15s debut off the bench. The 23-year-old Apps has been with the Canadian sevens side since 2018.

Miller joined Laura Russell and Taylor Perry in being sidelined by injury in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent the team a video message before the quarterfinal, congratulating them on their progress and wishing them good luck ahead.

"There's no better feeling than seeing Canadian athletes competing and winning on the world stage," Trudeau said in the short video.

Canada Roster

Olivia DeMerchant, Mapledale, N.B., Halifax Tars RFC; Emily Tuttosi, Souris, Man., Calgary Hornets/Exeter Chiefs (England); DaLeaka Menin, Vulcan, Alta., Calgary Hornets/Exeter Chiefs (England); Courtney Holtkamp, Rimbey, Alta., Red Deer Titans; McKinley Hunt, King City, Ont., Aurora Barbarians/Exeter Chiefs; Fabiola Forteza, Quebec City, Club de rugby de Quebec; Karen Paquin, Quebec City, Club de rugby de Quebec/Les Lionnes du Stade Bordelais (France); Sophie de Goede (capt.), Victoria, Castaway Wanderers RFC; Justine Pelletier, Riviere-du-Loup, Que., Club de rugby de Quebec; Alex Tessier, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC; Paige Farries, Red Deer, Alta., Worcester Warriors (England); Sara Kaljuvee, Ajax, Ont., Toronto Scottish; Alysha Corrigan, Charlottetown, P.E.I., Charlottetown RFC/Saracens (England); Maddy Grant, Cornwall, Ont., University of Ottawa; Elissa Alarie, Trois-Rivières, Que., Westshore RFC.

Replacements

Gillian Boag, Calgary, Capilano RFC; Brittany Kassil, Guelph, Ont., Guelph Redcoats; Alex Ellis, Ottawa, Barrhaven Scottish/Saracens (England); Ngalula Fuamba, Notre Dame de-l'ile-Perrot, Que., Town of Mount Royal RFC; Tyson Beukeboom, Uxbridge, Ont.; Cowichan RFC; Gabrielle Senft, Regina, Castaway Wanderers/Exeter Chiefs (England); Pamphinette Buisa, Gatineau, Que., Ottawa Irish; Anais Holly, Montreal, Town of Mount Royal RFC.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press