François Ratier is taking no chances in the opening match of the Women’s World Cup, selecting a powerful side to take on Hong Kong at Billings Park in Dublin on Wednesday. Canada are heavy favorites heading into the match owing to their No 3 spot on the official World Rugby Rankings with their opponents a full 20 spots below.
A full-strength forward pack is boosted by the return from injury of Latoya Blackwood, who partners Kayla Mack in the second row. Keeping Blackwood out of the back row is the outstanding trio of Jacey Grusnick, Karen Paquin, and captain Kelly Russell.
Also back in action after a few months on the sidelines is Andrea Burk. The 2014 World Cup Dream Team selection joins Alex Tessier in the midfield with Emily Belchos at flyhalf, the combination restored after an experiment on the New Zealand tour saw Tessier and Belchos switching spots.
Winning a starting role on the wing is Frédérique Rajotte, who makes it two speedy Quebec natives out wide with 2014 World Player of the Year Magali Harvey on the opposite side. Elissa Alarie has been named vice-captain and will start at fullback ahead of Julianne Zussman in a clear demonstration of Canada’s impressive squad depth.
1 Carolyn McEwen, 2 Laura Russell, 3 DaLeaka Menin, 4 Kayla Mack, 5 Latoya Blackwood, 6 Jacey Grusnick, 7 Karen Paquin, 8 Kelly Russell (capt.), 9 Lori Josephson, 10 Emily Belchos, 11 Frédérique Rajotte, 12 Andrea Burk, 13 Alex Tessier, 14 Magali Harvey, 15 Elissa Alarie
Replacements: 16 Jane Kirby, 17 Brittany Kassil, 18 Olivia DeMerchant, 19 Tyson Beukeboom, 20 Cindy Nelles, 21 Brianna Miller, 22 Amanda Thornborough, 23 Brittany Waters