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Canada prepares to take on Samoa rugby squad chafing at governing body

11/12/2014 04:48 EST | Updated 01/12/2015 05:59 EST
Canada faces the toughest test of its November rugby tour on Friday when it takes on 11th-ranked Samoa in Vannes, France.

While Canadian coach Kieran Crowley has been able to assemble his strongest squad so far on tour, the Pacific Islanders have been focused on trying to get their house in order off the field.

Unhappy at the administration of the Samoa Rugby Union, there was talk of a boycott of the Nov. 22 Samoa game against England that follows their Canadian date.

That prompted a statement Wednesday from the International Rugby Board, which said it had stepped in to "facilitate urgent and collaborative resolution" with the Samoa Rugby Union and the International Rugby Players' Association.

The threat of a player strike had been lifted, the IRB said.

A report in the Rugby Paper said the Samoan complaints included learning of squad selection on social media, incompetent leadership, poor pay and having to pay their own airfare back to Samoa for end-of-year-tours.

Canadian coach Kieran Crowley has been more concerned about getting his own side ready but said he saw no signs of player unrest at an event with the Samoa team earlier Wednesday.

"They were all in good form and it's all go as far we know," he said.

Crowley had not seen the Samoa team sheet yet but is expecting the addition of 300-pound Toulouse prop Census Johnston. Samoa is coming off a 24-13 loss to No. 14 Italy that dropped the Samoans two places in the world rankings.

Canada, currently ranked 17th in the world, lost 42-12 to Samoa two years ago when they met in Wales.

Crowley has made six changes, including two positional switches. from the team that beat No. 22 Namibia 17-13 in Wales last Friday.

Veteran Jamie Cudmore joins the starting 15, as well as fellow lock Brett Buekeboom, hooker Aaron Carpenter and fullback James Pritchard.

Jebb Sinclair moves from lock to No. 8 while DTH van der Merwe switches to the wing from fullback.

Two of the changes are enforced with Crowley sending back-row forward John Moonlight and winger Sean Duke home for some rest before they go to Dubai and South Africa on sevens duty.

Newcomer Richard Thorpe starts on the bench so could earn his first cap. The veteran flanker has dual English-Canadian citizenship via his mother, who is from Burlington, Ont.

Thorpe, 29, plays in England for London Welsh and has also had stints with London Irish and Leicester Tigers.

Crowley said Thorpe has looked good despite limited action due to an injury.

"I've been impressed by what I've seen at training and no doubt he'll get his opportunity over the next couple of weeks," said Crowley

Canada wraps up its tour Nov. 22 in Bucharest against No. 18 Romania. The tour opened with a 28-23 loss to an all-star squad from the second-tier league of English rugby

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Canada

Hubert Buydens (capt.) unattached, Saskatoon; Aaron Carpenter, Cornish Pirates RFC (England), Brantford, Ont.; Jason Marshall, Hawkes Bay Magpies (New Zealand), Vancouver; Jamie Cudmore, ASM Clermont Auvergne (France), Squamish, B.C.; Brett Buekeboom, Plymouth Albion (England), Lindsay, Ont.; Kyle Gilmour, St. Albert RFC, St. Albert, Alya.; Nanyak Dala, Castaway Wanderers, Saskatoon; Jebb Sinclair, London Irish (England), Fredericton; Gordon McRorie, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Connor Braid, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland), Victoria; DTH van der Merwe, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland), Regina; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers, Conception Bay South, N.L.; Conor Trainor, UBCOB Ravens, Vancouver; Jeff Hassler, Ospreys (Wales), Okotoks, Alta.; James Pritchard, Bedford Blues (England), Parkes, Australia.

Replacements

Ray Barkwill, Niagara Wasps RFC, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Jake Ilnicki, NSW Country Eagles (Australia), Williams Lake, B.C.; Andrew Tiedemann, Plymouth Albion (England), St. Albert, Alta.; Jon Phelan, Doncaster Knights (England) Montreall; Richard Thorpe, London Welsh (England), Beckingham, England; Sean White, James Bay AA, Victoria; Patrick Parfrey, Swilers RFC, St. Johns; Jordan Wilson-Ross, James Bay AA, Alliston, Ont.

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