Wednesday 17 January 2018

Canada boss Kieran Crowley: 'We won't beat Ireland and I expect Joe Schmidt's men to win the group'

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt

Kieran Crowley has downplayed any giant-killing talk ahead of Canada's World Cup opener against Ireland.

The Canada boss has told his squad to target a third-place finish in Pool D to assure qualification for the 2019 tournament in Japan.

Canada's Kiwi head coach expects Ireland to prevail in the Pool D contest that also includes France, Italy and Romania, and fight for the ultimate honours.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has branded Saturday's Canada clash in Cardiff a potential "banana skin", but Crowley has told his Canucks squad to be realistic about their World Cup aims.

"A good World Cup for us will be qualifying for the next World Cup, so you have to finish third in your pool for that," said Crowley.

"We would consider that success. You have got to win at least two games to be assured of that.

"We had the same sort of thing at our last World Cup and we won one and drew one, but we have hopes we can do it this time.

"Ireland are likely to top the group.

"They are one of the favourites to be there at the business end of the tournament and they are European champions."

Crowley is not likely to be so circumspect in private with a group of players led by Clermont's evergreen enforcer Jamie Cudmore.

The 37-year-old lock will renew hostilities with Ireland captain Paul O'Connell this weekend, in the latest of a string of feisty career clashes.

Canada's pragmatic boss knows the extent of the upset required to beat a nation ranked sixth in the world but who had tipped the heights of second earlier this summer.

Canada have slipped to 18th in the world standings in recent times, and Crowley admitted a sticky World Cup campaign could put his job on the line.

"We'll get the World Cup out of the way first," said Crowley when quizzed on his long-term future with Canada.

"But we haven't won a lot of games lately so any decision might be made for me.

"Results-wise we have been honest but haven't quite got across the line in a couple of games that we could have.

"We have improved though, and we have been playing some reasonable rugby.

"We just need to learn to take our opportunities and be a little more accurate in a lot of areas, such as ball security and game management."

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