Many of the New Zealand press are calling the Canada’s win over Tonga an upset, but Canada has beaten the Tongans three times in World Cup history, and at other times, too.
It seems people forget the Canadians made the 1991 Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, and play tough in every game. So any home field advantage Tonga might have had playing in New Zealand might not be enough to overcome a very unified Canadian squad, highlighted by a brilliant back row.
"All the boys here want is a bit of respect,” said fullback James Prithcard. “We only have two full-time professional players, we have a few more that play in second division teams but then the rest are amateurs. So all we want is some respect, because these guys might not be full-time professionals, but they can play some rugby.”
They certainly earned respect with their 25-20 victory over Tonga, and the back row of Chauncey O’Toole (who left the game injured but only has a sprained ankle), the short (for a NO. 8) but powerful Aaron Carpenter, and blindside flank and Man of the Match Adam Kleeberger, is truly outstanding.
"I think we earned some respect last night but for us it's just the beginning, we really have to do it on Sunday for people to take us seriously,” said Pritchard. “We were watching the tape and there were four or five other guys that could have taken that award, just everyone threw everything they had at that game. But for Kleebs, it's great, he's an amateur and back in Canada he's working and training. So to go up against a pretty handy Tongan side and do that, it just gives us so much confidence. It gives us that belief that we can compete."
Kleeberger demurred when asked about his performance, and, true to the Canadian way, preferred to talk about the team.
"We've always known we'd have this turnaround so we've been preparing for it,” Kleeberger said. “We have also had games leading into the World Cup with those short turnarounds, so it's just something we've kind of gotten used too."
Canada now looks ahead to France, and while there is talk about how annoying the four-day turnaround is, they aren't favored against the French. Their next key game, really, is nine days later against Japan. Win that game and they are automatically qualified for the 2015 World Cup. They will have plenty of time to prepare for that one.