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Canada and Germany were in pole position for the last berth in the 2019 Rugby World Cup after opening wins in the repechage tournament on Sunday.

Canada thrashed Kenya 65-19 in their first test. Germany, the lowest ranked of the four teams, beat Hong Kong, the highest ranked, 26-9.

Only the winner of the round robin will qualify. Canada is the only team among the four to have played in a Rugby World Cup, and has never missed one. It started 11 players with World Cup experience and four more in the reserves.

Winger DTH van der Merwe scored the first hat trick of his 53-test career as Canada racked up 10 tries to Kenya’s three.

The Canadians even scored two while reduced to 14 men in the first half. Kenya got as close as 27-19 after halftime, after which Canada pulled away.

Lock Michael Sheppard came off the bench to score a try on debut and push Canada past a half-century.

Germany, playing for the first time under former British and Irish Lions and England defence coach Mike Ford, and Hong Kong were 6-6 at halftime and 9-9 through the third quarter. But Germany’s forwards were gradually asserting control.

At 12-9 down, Hong Kong replacement forward Kane Boucaut was sin-binned for pulling down a maul and Germany struck when debutant hooker Kurt Haupt stormed to the line from 22 metres out.

Hong Kong never recovered, and near the end an overthrown lineout was snaffled by Germany and replacement prop Matthias Schosser scored.

Next weekend, Germany plays Canada, and Hong Kong meets Kenya.

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