KAMAISHI, IWATE PREF. – Canada and Namibia are both looking to finish their Rugby World Cup campaigns on a winning note by posting their first victory of the tournament on Sunday.
However, with a powerful typhoon expected to make landfall on Saturday, questions still remain whether tournament organizers will go ahead with the match in Kamaishi, one of the Tohoku cities that was largely destroyed in the country’s 2011 earthquake-tsunami disasters.
Both Canada and Namibia were hammered by tournament heavyweights New Zealand, South Africa and Italy in Pool B, and have yet to earn a point going into their clash at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium.
The World Cup organizers have said they will make the final decision on Sunday morning regarding the match, and Canada head coach Kingsley Jones said Saturday he will not think about the possible cancellation of the game until it is official.
“As far as we’re concerned, the only thing we can do in this situation is prepare for the game,” Jones said. “The discussions about an option of there not being a match, that is something we’ll deal with if it arises and as it stands, we have to prepare the psychological side of sport.”
While the two teams aim to return home with something to celebrate over, the match holds huge meaning to local residents since it will be staged at the venue built on the site of two schools swept away by the tsunami on March 11, 2011.
“We heard about the terrible tragedy all those years ago and understand this venue was at the heart of it. We’re very respectful of that,” Namibia attack coach Mark Jones said. “You saw the players take a knee prior to the captain’s run to pay their respect to all the people affected by the disaster.”
The two teams will face each other for the third time. Canada, ranked 22nd in the world, has won their two previous matchups, but have scored less than half as many points as No. 23 Namibia at this tournament.
“Getting a result is going to be huge,” Canada captain Tyler Ardron said. “Building this rugby union going forward it will be big for the guys that are staying on, especially to leave a nice legacy for any of the guys that are moving on. It’s a hugely important game.”
While Canada has been competing at the World Cup since the inaugural 1987 tournament, it has not won a match since beating Tonga 25-20 in 2011. The Canadians will do everything they possibly can to avoid repeating their 2015 campaign, when they finished without a single win.
“They’re a good-quality side and they showed that in glimpses against Italy, New Zealand and against South Africa,” Ardron said of Namibia. “They’ve got some dangerous players and some good attacking threats that we’ll have to nullify.”
Namibia coach Phil Davies has made six changes to the starting XV who lost 71-9 to New Zealand in a bid to snap the team’s 22-game winless streak at the Rugby World Cup.
His squad started with a 47-22 loss to Italy before a 57-3 defeat to South Africa.
“A win will have a lot of significance because this squad would be able to achieve something the previous five haven’t. That will keep enthusiasm up,” Davies said.
“It will show the investment we’ve had has shown progression and development. But our progression and development through processes has been incredible.”