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Canada ready to shake off French monkey

Canadas women's rugby side will look to shake the French monkey off their back on Wednesday in their first of two tests against France.


Canada owes its fourth place IRB ranking to third-ranked France; they have lost to France in the third place game of the last two World Cups.

The frustration has translated into motivation, and Canada arrived in France on November 12 prepared to win, bolstered by the adjustments and work they have put in since Nations Cup, and in the months before.

Les Bleus were the visiting side when the two squads met in August at the 2009 Nations Cup. Canadas defense was impressive and held strong, but the tourists kicked four penalties for a 12-5 victory, effectively extending Canadas winless streak against the French to 11 years.

With less than 10 months to the World Cup, Canada has spent previous camps building towards 2010, but there has been a collective agreement amongst the squad that now is the time to start expecting results.

Head coach Johnathan Long says that Canadas performance will be a matter of putting their preparation into practice against the French.

Weve done the groundwork and now its making sure what we do off the field is transferred onto the field. If that happens, the performance will take care of itself and well show what were capable of doing.

The NSWT has announced their 22-player roster for their midweek match at Stade Bourillot in Dijon. A third of the starting 15 will receive their first caps, and there are a few positional changes, a move reflective of Longs way of thinking towards 2010.

The fact that we have five new caps shows that the World Cup is not a closed door. Players can still strive to get onto the World Cup squad. It makes for healthy competition amongst the team. If youre pushing for places, your work ethic will remain high and you wont get comfortable.

This is a game where players can still show what theyre capable of.

Tabitha Stavrou, who only made her debut for Canada at Nations Cup, will be considered a veteran in the front row of the Canadian scrum as her other two counterparts will both earn their first caps.

6 twin towers Paige Burdett and Araba Chintoh will provide technical presence in Canadas second row. Wednesday marks Chintohs 17th cap after a five-year absence from the NSWT.

Having played together at the provincial level, three BC teammates will combine to form the loose trio. Barbara Mervin, who has consistently proven her capacity for leadership, will pilot the pack from no8.

Another BC connection forms Canadas halfback pairing. Anna Schnell and Julia Sugawara have played together at the club level, as well as provincially, and their familiarity with each other makes for a solid pivot-point.

It will be baptism by fire for Cheryl Phillips in the centres. Previously capped, the leggy back makes her first international appearance at outside centre alongside match captain Maria Gallo. Gallo returns to the centres after most of her caps since the 2006 World Cup have been earned in the back three.

Just 22, Quebecs Julianne Zussman brings experience to the outside backs as two new caps make their debut for Canada at fullback and wing. Having graduated from the U19 program, Zussmans decision-making skills and crafty running lines have made her a familiar face in the red jersey.

Wednesdays match will kick off at 6pm CET.

The second test between the third and fourth nations will be played at world-renowned Stade de France, as a curtain raiser for a mens international test between France and Samoa.

Unfortunately, neither match will be available online.

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Canada team to play France: Wednesday, November 18 in Dijon, France

1. Tabitha Stavrou 2. Brandi van Eeuwen* 3. Corinne Jacobsen* 4. Araba Chintoh 5. Paige Burdett 6. Heather Jaques 7. Shannon Kane* 8. Barbara Mervin (pack leader) 9. Julia Sugawara 10. Anna Schnell 11. Andrea Burk* 12. Maria Gallo (captain) 13. Cheryl Phillips 14. Julianne Zussman 15. Darcy Patterson*

Substitutions: 16. Marlene Donaldson 17. Kim Donaldson 18. Jen Kish 19. Megan Gibbs 20. Laura Stoughton 21. Sarah Ulmer 22. Brittany Waters

*Denotes new cap