Canadians take on France A for berth in Churchill Cup rugby final

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After an easy outing against Uruguay, Canada can expect a far stiffer test Sunday in the form of France A at the rugby Churchill Cup in suburban Denver.

The top French players may be in South Africa for Saturday's Test match against the Springboks but fourth-ranked France arguably has among the deepest talent pool in world rugby.

After an easy outing against Uruguay, Canada can expect a far stiffer test Sunday in the form of France A at the rugby Churchill Cup in suburban Denver.

The top French players may be in South Africa for Saturday's Test match against the Springboks but fourth-ranked France arguably has among the deepest talent pool in world rugby.

"It's going to be a real challenge for us but it's one that we're really looking forward to because it gives us an opportunity to measure ourselves against the best," said Canadian coach Kieran Crowley.

The Canada-France A winner will advance to the final of the six-team tournament against either England A (known as the Saxons) or the U.S. Eagles who meet in Saturday's early game.

The losers will play for third place. The playoff games are scheduled for June 19 at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Canada, ranked 14th in the world, is coming off a 48-6 win over No. 20 Uruguay last Saturday.

"The end result was pleasing but definitely we turned over a lot of ball," said Crowley, who spent time this week working on his team's decision-making process around the contact area.

The French beat the South Americans 43-10 on Wednesday.

"They performed very well," said Crowley. "They looked as though they could run away with it by a lot more than what they did at the end. But I think maybe the altitude or the heat on the day got to them just towards the end and Uruguay keep battling away at them."

The French have size and skill, battle-tested in their domestic Top 14 pro league.

"So they're experienced at that level and know how to make you pay. I think they scored three or four counter-attack tries and they're very good runners with the ball, as all French teams are," Crowley said.

Because of that, the Canadians will have to avoid defensive lapses. But they have some teeth of their own in the backline.

"There's a bit of pace there which is good," said Crowley. "You've got to have that at this level. The more games they get together, the better they'll be."

Top names in the French touring side include scrum half Julien Dupuy, fly half Lionel Beauxis and fullback Maxime Medard

Crowley has made three changes to his starting 15.

Sean White gets his first start at scrum half, replacing veteran Ed Fairhurst who has to return because of work commitments.

Matt Evans, who has just signed with Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales, starts at fullback with James Pritchard moving to the bench. Brian Erichsen starts at lock in place of Tyler Hotson.

Uncapped back Eric Wilson is named on the bench.

Should Sunday's game (Setanta Canada, 5:25 p.m. ET) end in a draw, Canada would finish first in Pool A by virtue of a better scoring differential.

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Canada

Matt Evans, Newport Gwent Dragons (Wales); Ciaran Hearn, The Rock; DTH van der Merwe, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland); Phil Mackenzie, Esher (England); Justin Mensah-Coker, unattached; Ander Monro, Ontario Blues; Sean White, B.C. Bears; Aaron Carpenter, unattached; Adam Kleeberger, Rotherham (England); Chauncey O'Toole, The Rock; Brian Erichsen, B.C. Bears; Luke Tait, unattached; Andrew Tiedemann, Prairie Wolf Pack; Pat Riordan (captain), B.C. Bears; Doug Wooldridge, Ontario Blues.

Replacements: Ryan Hamilton, B.C. Bears; Tom Doelzel, Prairie Wolf Pack; Jason Marshall, B.C. Bears; Luke Cudmore, B.C. Bears; Nanyak Dala, Prairie Wolf Pack; Eric Wilson, B.C. Bears; James Pritchard, Bedford RFC (England).

Organizations: France A, U.S. Eagles

Geographic location: Canada, Uruguay, Denver South Africa Harrison, N.J. England Wales Ontario Scotland

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