Canada, Japan resume old rivalry

Sep 24, 2007 - 5:35 PM By Alex Lowe Special to PA SportsTicker

LA BAULE, France (Ticker) - Canada will revive its oldest rugby rivalry Tuesday when it goes in search of a first win of the World Cup against Japan in Bordeaux.

Japan played five provincial games on a tour of Canada in 1930, shortly after the Canadian Rugby Union had been founded, and the first official test between the two countries was staged two years later in Osaka.

The Canadians are acutely aware of their rugby history, and coach Ric Suggitt does not need to remind his men that the Cannucks have always managed at least one victory at each World Cup.

They arrived in France targeting three but after defeats to Wales and Fiji, and with Australia to come over the weekend, Tuesday's clash now represents their final realistic opportunity.

"I don't think it will be difficult to get the players motivated," Suggitt said. "The players have a lot of pride and they know in the record books that Canada has come away with at least one victory.

"We go into every game, as the old hockey saying goes, giving 110 percent and we will not hold anything back."

Suggitt, who has lost experienced flanker Jamie Cudmore with a broken hand, decided to change his entire back row in a bid to counter a Japanese side which is quick on its feet.

"We realize they are very quick and play with a lot of tempo in the game and we have some fresh legs in the back row, putting Aaron Carpenter back there and Adam Kleeburger and Colin Yukes," Suggitt said. "Hopefully we can take away some of their strength.

"Dave Biddles has been playing well but we kept him out of this game. He is a bit more physical and we will need that against Australia come Saturday."

Japan, playing its fourth game in 18 days, have recalled fullback Go Aruga and open-side flanker Philip O'Reilly, who missed the Wales game through injury.

"I played Canada in 1991," said Japan coach John Kirwan, a former New Zealand winger. "They have a proud history. We are the underdogs in this game. They play very well."

Canada has played Japan more than any other team since those first two tests in Osaka.

Ernest Pinkham played in the second game as a winger and, at age 99 and living in Vancouver, he is Canada's oldest international.

Canada lost the game but forward Bill Wharton consumed 16 bottles of sake at the postmatch reception and still managed to walk from the banquet.

It was a feat considered by the rest of the Canadians as "the most brilliant individual performance" of the tour.

"The trip to Japan was one of the highlights of my life," Pinkham recalled. "To cross the Pacific Ocean by ship and play for my country in a foreign land was a great thrill.

"We had a good team and we gave a good account of ourselves. They were a hell of a nice bunch of guys and we made friendships that lasted a lifetime."

After 17 tests, Japan holds a 9-8 lead. Canada heads into Tuesday's clash determined to square the ledger.

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