NEWS
09/30/2011 12:45 EDT | Updated 11/29/2011 05:12 EST

Riordan says Canada faces mental hurdle in World Cup clash with New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Pat Riordan has two memories of his last match against the All Blacks: Canada's intercept try and a fervent prayer for a power cut at halftime to stop the scoreboard at 26-13.

Unfortunately for Riordan and for Canada, the floodlights stayed on and the All Blacks went on to win the 2007 match at Hamilton, New Zealand, by 64-13.

Riordan will lead Canada against New Zealand in its last Pool A match at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday and he can still draw on the memory of that match four years ago for enlightenment and encouragement.

More than anything, it revealed to the Canada hooker that the challenge of playing the All Blacks is as much mental as physical.

Asked on Friday what he remembered of his last match with the All Blacks, Riordan recalled Martin Pike running away for an intercept try.

"I think someone else was maybe hoping there was going to be a power outage at halftime because at halftime it was pretty close actually," he said. "The second half we started falling off tackles a little bit in the last 20.

"The biggest thing was getting over that mental hurdle of, you know, this is a team which, for as long as you've played rugby you've known about and stuff like that.

"To play them in a game and to realize that they're human and they go down just the same. You sort of pick up a few things on the speed that they do things and sit back at the end and think yep, that was pretty good."

Riordan has encouraged his teammates to savour the memory of their match against the All Blacks on Sunday. Canada has played New Zealand only four times and only twice previously at World Cups, losing 29-13 in 1991 and 68-6 in 2003. Outside World Cups it lost 73-7 in 1995 and 64-13 in Riordan's memorable clash four years ago.

Riordan said playing the No. 1 team in the world was something every Canadian player should treasure but, at the same time, Canada could only prepare for the match as it had for its three previous pool games.

"It's probably not too popular to say down here but you've got to approach it just like any other game, whether it's New Zealand or against Japan or France," he said. "It's a chance to measure yourself and you just measure yourself against what everybody else thinks is the best team in the world.

"There's certainly no trepidation. That's why you play, to play against the best and to be doing it in their country in a World Cup as well probably just adds to the excitement. It's a memory we're all going to have for a long time. The onus is on us to try to make it a good memory, I guess."

Riordan said Canada would be buoyed on Sunday by the extraordinary support the squad had enjoyed throughout the tournament, both from their travelling supporters and from New Zealanders.

The Beardos, the four members of the Canadian team who had sported lavish beards throughout the tournament, have their own following had have prompted a "Fear the Beard" campaign around Sunday's match.

The support "has been awesome," Riordan said. "I think there's about 30 guys from a place called Port Alberni which is a small logging town on Vancouver Island and we saw them at the Japan game and they had the full overalls on the wool lumberjack jackets. They must have been sweating pretty bad up there.

"There's been a lot of groups like that. There's another bunch of guys from another club who cruise around in Mountie suits. It's just great.

"The beard's a pretty popular one. I couldn't believe it when we got off the plane in Napier and there were little kids and old ladies and everyone had a beard on. Even the bus driver had a beard on."