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Canada coaches: long wait for Rugby World Cup opener may benefit players

09/09/2011 11:19 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST
WAITANGI, New Zealand - Canada's long wait for its opening game of the Rugby World Cup may benefit rather than frustrate the country's players.

Seventeen of the 20 competing nations will have already played at least once before Canada gets under way against Tonga on Wednesday, but assistant coach Geraint John hopes that will give his players plenty of time to catch up on some much-needed viewing.

"Personally, for our team I think it's a good thing," John said Saturday. "To be very honest, not much rugby goes on in Canada from a TV perspective, so there isn't much for the players to actually look at.

"It's nice now that they actually get to see games and actually get a feel that they are part of the World Cup."

The Welshman said the Canada players will be in the mood for a big match against Tonga, which lost 41-10 to host New Zealand in the tournament opener on Friday night.

"By the time we get to Whangarei on Wednesday they will know that the World Cup has started, and hopefully that excitement will bring out a great performance from the players," John said.

The wait also means Canada has time to work on ways to counter the powerful Tongan scrum, which was a big feature of the team's spirited performance in the second half against the tournament favourites.

"It wasn't a great thing to watch, just scrum after scrum after scrum," John said. "It probably wasn't good for the spectators and people who want to see a bit more of an entertaining game, but it proved successful and a strong point for Tonga.

"That's probably one area they will look to target us and that's an area we'll work hard to cover."

Defence coach Clive Griffiths has plenty to work upon if his team is to counter the Tongans, but has urged the players to steer clear of confrontation where possible.

"We've definitely got the players and they need to show some footwork because of the directness of the Tongans' hits and the ferocity of their hits," Griffiths said. "They enjoy the contact area. Our evasion skills will have to be of the highest order.

"It's going to be a war. No doubt about that. They've got to win, we've got to win. So it's one of those knife-edge games."

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