Canadian head coach Kieran Crowley was happy with the result, but not the performance.
Despite watching his team soundly defeat the United States 27-9 in the first leg of its Rugby World Cup qualifier last weekend to put Canada on the brink of earning a spot for England 2015, Crowley is looking for more.
An 18-point advantage in the two-match total-points series heading into Saturday’s game at BMO Field puts Canada in good position, but Crowley wants a better showing than what he saw in Charleston, S.C.
“Very pleased with the result,” Crowley said. “A little disappointed with what went on inside the game as far as our performance went, so we certainly had a lot to look at this week and a lot to work on.”
Canada will make just two roster changes for Saturday’s game, both through injury.
“The team that took the field last week got the job done,” Crowley said at Thursday’s press conference. “But they know they have a job to do for Canada on Saturday.”
One of the two forced changes will see veteran lock Jamie Cudmore miss out with a hand injury.
The 34-year-old from Squamish, B.C., is hoping his teammates can provide him a chance to participate at his fourth World Cup.
“It’s really the pinnacle for any Canadian athlete to get into a World Cup situation,” said Cudmore, who will be replaced in the lineup by Tyler Hotson. “The honour of pulling on a Canadian jersey, especially on the world stage, is pretty much incomparable.
“I’ll be very proud until the end of my days to say I represented Canada.”
The winner of the Canada-U.S. series will join 12 countries that have already qualified automatically for the 20-team 2015 Rugby World Cup, slotting in Pool D alongside France, Ireland, Italy and another European qualifier.
All is not lost for the loser of the series, which moves on to play Uruguay in another round of qualifying.
Canada, ranked three spots ahead of the U.S. in 15th by the International Rugby Board, got off to a quick start in last Saturday’s game with a try in the opening minute.
But the team stumbled a bit in its execution and Crowley is hoping the home fans can push Canada to an even better showing.
“It’s in front of our own crowd and supporters that don’t get to see a lot of rugby here in Canada,” he said. “To be able to be playing in front of them is great.”
The Americans, meanwhile, face the daunting task of travelling north with a big deficit following a disappointing performance.
U.S. coach Mike Tolkin said any player or coach that has made it to this level of rugby has experienced similar circumstances at one time or another.
“I think the most important thing to do is to focus on small battles,” he said. “If you come into this game saying ‘We need a 20-point win or we’re all going to go down the tubes’ ... totally wrong approach.
“It’s winning the small battles and getting things going right ... If you try to do everything, you do nothing.”
Canada and the U.S. met at the same stage of World Cup qualifying four years ago. The Americans scored a 12-6 victory in the opening leg in South Carolina, only to lose 41-18 in the second match in Edmonton.
The U.S. went on to beat Uruguay 27-22 and 27-6 to also make the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
Tolkin said sticking to the gameplan will be critical to the Americans on Saturday.
“You’re not going to go week-to-week and turn the whole ship upside down,” he said. “When we take the field we have to execute the plan. It’s one thing to have it and to practise it, but we have to execute it on the field.”
Notes: The other change due to injury for Canada will see Ray Barkwill slot in at hooker in place of Ryan Hamilton (knee). ... Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, who was named to Rugby Canada’s board of directors earlier this week, was at Thursday’s press conference. ... Should the loser of the Canada-U.S. series also suffer defeat to Uruguay, the team has one last chance to make the World Cup via a repechage tournament. ... Saturday’s game marks the 51st meeting between the North American rivals. Canada leads the series 37-12-1. ... The U.S. has lost its last six matches in 2013. ... The Webb Ellis Cup, the trophy awarded to the Rugby World Cup winner, was on hand in Charleston last weekend and will be on display in Toronto on Saturday. ... The last time Canada played in Toronto — a 40-14 loss to Ireland in June — the 20,396 fans who showed up to BMO Field were the largest ever for a rugby game in this country.