Forward Aaron Carpenter will earn a record 77th cap Saturday as Canada takes on Romania in Edmonton, the final test before its Rugby World Cup qualifying series with the United States.
The 34-year-old back-rower from Brantford, Ont., came off the bench last Saturday in Canada’s 13-0 loss to No. 12 Georgia to tie Al Charron’s Canadian record of 76 caps, Carpenter is in the starting lineup for the game in Edmonton against No. 16 Romania.
“He’s an outstanding player,” said Canadian coach Mark Anscombe, whose team is currently ranked No. 23 in the world.
“(Given) what Al Charron achieved as a player, for someone to come along and supercede that is a testament to the man’s durability and his work ethic and his ability to look after itself.”
“Let’s hope the day becomes a memorable one for him,” he added.
Charron’s Canadian career stretched from 1990 to 2003. Carpenter, who has served as captain in the past, made his Canadian debut against the U.S. in 2005.
Carpenter, who plays in England for the second-tier Doncaster Knights, was on track to set the record last November on tour with Canada. But he broke his arm against Ireland and missed subsequent matches against Romania and Samoa.
After playing in driving rain and cold in Calgary, the Canadians are looking for more pleasant conditions in Edmonton where the forecast calls for 19 degrees and mainly sunny.
Anscombe has made 11 changes to the team that lost to Georgia, with only lock Brett Beukeboom, flanker Matt Heaton, winger Sean Duke and centre Conor Trainor remaining in the starting 15.
Anscombe had said he planned to use all of his squad ahead of the June 24 and July 1 qualifying games against the U.S., to avoid injuries.
For Romania, he has opted for a more senior lineup that marks the return of overseas pros Evan Olmstead, Tyler Ardron, DTH van der Merwe and Ciaran Hearn among others.
Gord McRorie and Connor Braid, who was with England’s Worcester Warriors last season, take over at scrum half and fly half.
Prop Hubert Buydens is close to be returning to action from a knee surgery. Anthony Luca, who came off the bench against Georgia, earns his first test start at prop.
With Taylor Paris set to join the team for the U.S. series, the team picked to face Romania is close to the one the Americans will likely face first in Hamilton and then in San Diego.
First up is Romania, a team Anscombe says offers the same physical game as Georgia.
“Very similar teams. Big men (who) like to physically beat you up,” he said.
The Canadian coach said the challenge for his team is to have the patience and ability to adjust to play their game rather than be sucked into the Romania style of play.”
Beukeboom and van der Merwe will serve as co-captains.
Anthony Luca, Burnaby Lake RFC, Burnaby, B.C.; Ray Barkwill, Castaway Wanderers, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Matt Tierney, Section Paloise (France), Oakville, Ont.; Brett Beukeboom (co-capt.), Cornish Pirates (England), Lindsay, Ont.; Evan Olmstead, Newcastle Falcons (England), Vancouver; Tyler Ardron, Chiefs (New Zealand), Lakefield, Ont.; Matt Heaton, Darlington Mowden Park (England), Godmanchester, Que.; Aaron Carpenter, Doncaster Knights (England), Brantford, Ont.; Gordon McRorie, UBC Old Boys Ravens, Calgary; Connor Braid, James Bay AA, Victoria; Sean Duke, UBC Thunderbirds, Vancouver; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Conor Trainor, USON Nevers (France), Vancouver; DTH van der Merwe (co-capt.), Newcastle Falcons (England), Victoria; Ciaran Hearn, London Irish (England), Conception Bay South, N.L.
Benoit Piffero, Blagnac Sporting Club (France), Montreal; Djustice Sears-Duru, Oakville Crusaders, Oakville, Ont.; Ryan Ackerman, Burnaby Lake RFC, Saskatoon; Conor Keys, UVIC Vikes, Stittsville, Ont.; Kyle Baillie, London Scottish (England), Summerside, P.E.I.; Phil Mack, James Bay AA, Victoria; Shane O’Leary, unattached, Cork, Ireland; Andrew Coe, UBC Thunderbirds, Toronto.