Pritch faces Maori in final tour game

Web stock pictures.
Web stock pictures.

Bedford Blues skipper James Pritchard has again been named at full-back for Canada’s final match of their Fall Tour tonight when they take on the NZ Maori All Blacks at Iffley Road, the home of Oxford University Rugby Football Club.

The morale-boosting 35-3 win over Russia was the perfect tonic for the players to travel south, as they prepare to face a side that Canada has met three times previously.

Pritchard is the only player left from the side who faced the NZ Maori All Blacks team who toured Canada in 2003, with the visitors returning home with 65-27 and 30-9 victories.

Pritchard made his Canada debut in Calgary, as did Jim Douglas and Jeff Reid. The full-back scored his first points for the national side during the second of these tests in Toronto, kicking three penalties accounting for all of Canada’s points that day.

The sides met again in a 2007 Churchill Cup fixture at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, with the Maori side winners once again, by 59-23. On that occasion, Adam Kleeberger, Mike Pyke and Aaron Carpenter scored tries for Canada, with Pritchard kicking a conversion and two penalties.

The squad have been preparing for the final match as team manager Gareth Rees explained: “They have been working hard down at Abingdon School and Iffley Road.

“It has been a short week, after playing the Russians on Saturday night. We have had some injuries as you would expect after a two-game series, so we are managing those.”

Looking ahead to the game itself, Rees said: “The boys have not only broken down their own game against Russia, they have had a look at both Maori games, at Leicester and Doncaster.

“The Maori are obviously a very good side going forward, they offload the ball exceptionally well as you would expect. Any mistakes you give them, they will punish you. They are a very good attacking side - that is obviously their strength.

“But we are just focusing now on putting our guys together, getting combinations working, doing the basics well and trying to take away their threats at the breakdown.”

Although the pack remains unchanged from the Russia game, the backline sees three changes. Phil Mack replaces Eric Wilson at scrum-half, with Connor Braid returning to start at fly-half.

Brett Beukeboom returns to the matchday squad, while Nathan Hirayama and Sean Duke take their place on the bench, having joined the squad as part of their preparations for the Dubai 7s next week.

The NZ Maori All Blacks will also be playing their third and final tour fixture in the UK on Friday.

Like the Canadians, they have a record of one win and one defeat on their travels.

Their first fixture was against Premiership side Leicester Tigers, losing by 32-24.

Last weekend, they travelled to Doncaster, and played a Championship XV, winning convincingly by 52-21, with a second half display which saw them run in five tries after half time.

The NZ Maori All Blacks squad is full of players with Super 15 experience, and their record against international sides makes impressive reading.

Since their first international fixture in 1921, they have won 55 out of 87 matches against international opposition, which is a record many full international sides would be proud to boast.

Although the first fixture between the sides only took place in 2003, the NZ Maori All Blacks first visited Canada in 1927, where they played four fixtures in Vancouver.

As part of an extensive international tour that season, they beat Vancouver (33-9), University of British Columbia (12-3), an All Mainland side (43-0) and Victoria BC (41-3).

Kick-off on tonight is at 7.30pm.

Canada: 1 Hubert Buydens (Saskatoon Wild Oats/Prairie Wolf Pack), 2 Ryan Hamilton (Capilano/Pacific Tyee), 3 Jason Marshall (Aurillac), 4 Jebb Sinclair (London Irish), 5 Tyler Hotson (London Scottish RFC), 6 Tyler Ardron (Brantford Harlequins/Ontario Blues), 7 Chauncey O’Toole (Bridgend Ravens), 8 Aaron Carpenter (Plymouth Albion RFC), 9 Phil Mack (UVic Vikes/Pacific Tyee), 10 Connor Braid (James Bay AA/Pacific Tyee), 11 Taylor Paris (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Phil Mackenzie (London Welsh), 13 Ciaran Hearn (Castaway Wanderers/the Rock), 14 Jeff Hassler (Okotoks RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack), 15 James Pritchard (Bedford Blues). Replacements: 16 Andrew Tiedemann (FC Auch Gers), 17 Ray Barkwill (Niagara, Oakville Crusaders/Ontario Blues), 18 Doug Wooldridge (Lindsay RFC/Ontario Blues), 19 Brett Beukeboom (Plymouth Albion RFC), 20 John Moonlight (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues), 21 Eric Wilson (Meraloma RC), 22 Nathan Hirayama (UVic Vikes/Pacific Tyee), 23 Sean Duke (UVic Vikes/ Pacific Tyee).