Tournament hosts Canada draw Uruguay first up, which at first glance seems pretty favorable except that thirteen of the starting lineup for Los Teros played together during the Nations Cup, and in terms of team cohesiveness they will have a distinct advantage over their northern opponents. Rain is forecast for Friday evening as well so that should play into Uruguay’s game plan. Man for man Canada has an advantage in terms of size and athleticism, but under the circumstances this will be a tough match to do well.
Like their Argentinean cousins, the Uruguayan forwards will be a stern challenge. They lack somewhat in size but they make up for it with technical ability and sheer will. Second row Cristofer Soares is their biggest forward and should be a physical presence, and look for Diego Magno, their most capped player, to put in lots of work on the flank.
Don’t expect to see much action from the backline. They will be at a size disadvantage but they do have pace in the outside backs particularly with Gaston Mieres who can cause problems with space. Halfbacks Guillermo Lijtenstein and Felipe Berchesi have been playing together for a couple years so they should be in sync, though likely we will see plenty of kicking from them.
Canada have World Cup stalwart Hubert Buydens teaming up with Doug Wooldridge at prop so should be able to hold their own in the scrum, but I would still expect Uruguay to have a slight edge there. The lineout is a different matter, however, as Jon Phelan and Tyler Ardron have a significant height advantage and will look to dominate on either team’s throw in. Ardron in particular has been in excellent form and should be a contender for player of the tournament if he produces the goods. Toni Wodzicki is another solid lineout exponent, and Zac Coughlan will be looking to impose his power running game in his senior national debut.
With the end of Ed Fairhurst’s career at hand, there is an opening at scrumhalf for Canada and Kyle Armstrong gets the first opportunity to lay down a marker. These are the types of games you want to challenge a halfback’s ability to steady the ship in tough conditions. Sean White has hardly set the world alight and if Armstrong can do a job at first go, he may have the upper hand heading into the big match next weekend. Highly touted Connor Braid gets the first crack at flyhalf and it will be his tactical kicking that comes under the most scrutiny. We know he can run and pass, but can he control a game?
The game plan for either side should be fairly simple. Uruguay will kick the ball deep and look to capitalise on mistakes, while Canada will try to exploit the corners and challenge at the lineout. Not short on passion but somewhat sloppy in execution, Canada wins by 6.
Liam Underwood; Josh Hart, Nick Blevins, Patrick Parfrey, Clayton Meeres; Connor Braid, Kyle Armstrong; Hubert Buydens, Owen Parfrey, Doug Wooldridge; Chris Long, Jon Phelan; Zac Coughlan, Toni Wodzicki, Tyler Ardron (capt.). RES: Ray Barkwill, Creag Johnston, Jacob Rumball, Aaron Flagg, Seb Pearson, Alistair Clark, Patrick Kay, Jordan Wilson-Ross.
Jeronimo Etcheverry; Pablo Bueno, Santiago Gibernau, Rodrigo Martinez, Gaston Mieres; Felipe Berchesi, Guillermo Lijtenstein; Alejo Corral, Arturo Avalo (capt.), Oscar Duran; Franco Lammana, Cristofer Soares; Fernando Bascou, Diego Magno, Juan Ormaechea. RES: Sebastian Sagario, Rodolfo de Mula, Juan Rombys, Mathias Palomeque, Francisco Vecino, Alejo Duran, Juan de Freitas, Federico Favaro.