Canada face the USA in the first of two Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifiers against the USA at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday.
The USA have won the last five meetings between the sides, including their most recent meeting during the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship in Burnaby, BC. Canada have not beaten the Americans since August 2013 when it won both legs of their Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier.
However, since the tournament’s inception in 1987, Canada have never missed a Rugby World Cup. They achieved their best result in 1991 when they reached the quarterfinals before being eliminated by New Zealand. USA, who have played in seven of the previous eight tournaments, have never advanced out of the pool stages.
Meanwhile, Canada have not lost a Rugby World Cup qualification match since July 2009 when they lost 12-6 to USA before rebounding to win 41-18 to make the 2011 tournament.
Djustice Sears-Duru, Ray Barkwill and Jake Ilnicki will form Canada’s front row while Evan Olmstead joins Beukeboom at lock.
Admir Cejvanovic and Matt Heaton start at flanker with Tyler Ardron at number eight.
For the USA, the experienced Phil Mack starts at scrum-half while Shane O’Leary starts at fly-half. Taylor Paris is joined on the wing by Andrew Coe while Connor Braid and van der Merwe get the nod at centre. Meanwhile, Newfoundland’s Ciaran Hearn starts at full-back.
Chris Baumann and Tony Lamborn were unavailable for selection this week following injuries sustained in the June 17 defeat to Georgia at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University. Hooker James Hilterbrand and Tony Purpura maintain their places in the starting XV alongside Ryan, however, while Nick Civetta comes back into the side to partner Ben Landry in the second row. Clever, who will be retiring from international rugby following the return fixture in San Diego July 1, will start in his 18th test against Canada with a try-scoring record of four tries in the previous two matchups under his belt. Number eight Cam Dolan and flanker John Quill round out the pack.
Vice captain Nate Augspurger returns to the number nine jersey after a try-scoring campaign on the wing in Georgia last weekend, with AJ MacGinty also swapping shirts to start at fly-half. Matai Leuta kept play alive for the Eagles' final try in the 21-17 loss, while Ryan Matyas already has one try to his name during the current assembly. The pair will patrol the wings outside Marcel Brache and Bryce Campbell. Mike Te'o recorded a hat trick against Canada in February from the full-back position and will cover the backs from the same position Saturday.
Professionals Andrew Durutalo and David Tameilau are available to Mitchell in the reserves, along with one of last weekend's try-scorers in Matt Jensen in a forward-heavy bench. Ben Cima and Shaun Davies are the backs in the six-two split.
USA coach John Mitchell said: "We are really excited for this series, as you wait four years for this and you do not want to miss it, especially since it has never been achieved in USA Eagles RWC-Qualifying history which gives you an indication of the enormity of the task.
"The lads have put in a tremendous amount of quality work and have realised there is healthy competition for places dictated by a focus on nailing our key skills to improve our chance to win.
"It's also difficult to leave out outstanding squad members with the likes of Nate Brakeley and Will Magie because of the way our team mix has been selected. Injuries are always part of the game and we are very fortunate to have very good depth at this point in the series. We still have a lot of work to do between now and July 1."
Meanwhile, Canada coach Mark Anscombe said: “It’s very important to win the first game.
“Whoever gets victory is one up in a two test series so it’s crucial we take advantage of home field.
“It’ll be harder to go to San Diego with a loss and a win would build a lot of confidence.”
Canada: 15 Ciaran Hearn, 14 Andrew Coe, 13 DTH van Der Merwe (cc), 12 Connor Braid, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Shane O’Leary, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Admir Cejvanovic, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Brett Beukeboom (cc), 3 Jake Ilnicki, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Djustice Sears-Duru
Replacements: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Anthony Luca, 18 Matt Tierney, 19 Kyle Baillie, 20 Aaron Carpenter, 21 Gordon McRorie, 22 Nick Blevins, 23 Dan Moor
USA: 15 Ben Cima, 14 Mike Te'o, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Matai Leuta, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 John Quill, 6 Todd Clever (c), 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Ben Landry, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Tony Purpura
Replacements: 16 Peter Malcolm, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 David Tameilau, 21 Andrew Durutalo, 22 Shaun Davies, 23 Will Magie
Date: Saturday, June 24
Venue: Tim Hortons field, Hamilton
Kick-Off: 15:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)