Coach Sandro Fiorino has made sweeping changes to his roster for Canada’s rematch with the U.S. in women’s rugby play Friday, handing starts to 11 new players.
The Canadians won 15-9 when the teams met Monday in Glendale, Colo. It was the first test for the third-ranked Canadians and sixth-ranked Americans since they played Nov. 20 and 24, 2019, at the Can-Am Series in Chula Vista, Calif. Canada won both games, 19-0 and 52-27.
Friday’s game will also be at Infinity Park in suburban Denver.
Given the lengthy hiatus due to the pandemic, Fiorino is opting to give as many of his players a run-out as possible before heading to Britain to face No. 1 England at Twickenham Stoop in London on Nov. 14 and No. 11 Wales on Nov. 21 at Cardiff Arms Park.
“Monday’s result was very encouraging for our group of players and staff,” Fiorino said in a statement. “Having back-to-back games gives us an opportunity to properly evaluate the deep and talented roster that we have. I believe this will pay dividends moving forward as we continue to build and refine the team heading into next year’s World Cup.”
The Canada-U. S. matches are part of the Pacific Four Series, a new women’s competition that will launch in full next year with four teams competing.
Fiorino has changed the tight five in the forward pack with only flankers Courtney Holtkamp and Karen Paquin retaining their place in the starting 15, Sophie de Goede, who excelled after coming on for the injured Janna Slevinsky four minutes into Monday’s match, starts at No. 8.
In the backs, fullback Emily Belchos de Goede switches to fly half and Paige Farries moves from centre to wing.
Lock Laetitia Royer and fullback Julia Schell will make their senior 15s debuts Friday, joining Renee Gonzalez, Sarah-Maude Lachance and Nakisa Levale who won their first cap Monday.
U.S. coach Rob Cain has made seven personnel and two positional changes to his starting lineup from Monday’s match with hooker Saher Hamdan and winger Ilona Maher set to make their first test starts.
The U. S. women can leapfrog Australia into fifth place in the rankings with a win over Canada. That would equal their highest-ever ranking.
The Canadians will remain third no matter Friday’s outcome.
Canada has won six of its last seven matches with the U.S. But before Monday, Canada’s last five wins had all been by at least 19 points.
American Kat Roche will make her test refereeing debut. In July, the Texas native became the first female to referee a Major League Rugby game.
An assistant referee in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2017 and 2018, she joined the MLR refereeing ranks in 2019 as an assistant referee and worked her way up the ranks.
Brittany Kassil, Guelph, Ont., Guelph Redcoats; Laura Russell, Bolton, Ont., Toronto Nomads/Cowichan RFC; Alex Ellis, Ottawa, Barrhaven Scottish/Saracens (England); Laetitia Royer, Loretteville, Que., St-Anne-de-bellevue/Lons Section Paloise (France); Tyson Beukeboom, Uxbridge, Ont., Cowichan RFC; Courtney Holtkamp, Rimbey, Alta., Red Deer Titans; Karen Paquin, La Ville de Quebec, Que., Club de Rugby de Quebec/Stade Bordelais (France); Sophie de Goede, Victoria, Castaway Wanderers RFC/Queen’s University; Justine Pelletier, Riviere-du-Loup, Que., Club de rugby de Quebec/Les Lionnes du stade bordelais (France); Emily Belchos De Goede, Innisfil, Ont., Westshore RFC; Paige Farries, Red Deer, Alta., Westshore RFC/Worcester Warriors (England); Nakisa Levale, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC; Marie Thibault, Quebec City, Club de Rugby de Quebec; Sarah-Maude Lachance, Victoriaville, Que., Club de Rugby de Quebec/Lons Section Paloise Rugby Feminin (France); Julia Schell, Uxbridge, Ont., Guelph Redcoats.
Veronica Harrigan, Lucan, Ont., Brantford Harlequins; Mikiela Nelson, North Vancouver, UBC Rugby/Capilano Rugby; Emma Taylor, Scotsburn, N.S., HRFC; DaLeaka Menin, Vulcan, Alta., Exeter Chiefs (England); Gabrielle Senft, Regina, Castaway Wanderers/University of Victoria Vikes; Alexandra Tessier, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC; Brianna Miller, Pointe-Claire, Que., Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC; Renee Gonzalez, Toronto, Westshore RFC/University of Victoria Vikes.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press