No ice hockey, maple syrup or poutine: Just a solid Canadian rugby test for the Wallaroos to begin the Pacific Four Series


The Wallaroos kick off the season and Pacific Four Series with a big game against Canada on Saturday.

For the Wallaroos to again qualify for the top tier WXV 1 tournament later in the year they need to get at least one win from games against Canada, USA or New Zealand over the next couple of weeks.

Canada is fourth on the World rankings, Australia is fifth but there is a bit of a gap.

The Wallaroos have played Canada five times and have never beaten them, often with a significant loss.

They played them twice in 2017 losing both, 45-5 and 43-12, most recently in 2023 it was 45-17. The closest was in 2022 when Canada got a 22-10 win, noting it was pretty wet.

To add to the challenge Canada has already played a game. Last week they played against the USA with a 50-7 win.

It looks like the Canadians smoked the USA, but in reality, it was pretty even in the first half and Canada only led 17-7.

Not sure what the halftime talk was but the Canadians blew the USA away in the second half with 33 unanswered points. Saying the Canadians in the second half were very impressive, is an understatement.

The Canadian team is experienced and battle-hardened. They have players celebrating their fiftieth and sixty-seventh caps. In comparison, the Wallaroos have a couple of players in their 20s.

In the USA game, 17 of the Canadian players played in the UK and five were from their rugby 7s squad.

They are a very balanced team. Their forwards have size, have good set piece and their backs have speed. In the backrow both Pamphinette Buisa and captain Sophie de Goede were outstanding.

The Wallaroos can expect a bit of a front-on battering from their forward pack. What else stood out? Their backline has good line speed in defence and has some creativity in attack.

The Australia Wallaroos sing along to the national anthem. (Photo by Andrea Cardin – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

It is worth noting last year Canada commenced having both the 15s and sevens programs working together to build depth, that includes both players and coaches.

So who has been selected in coach Jo Yapp’s first Wallaroos team to take on Canada?

The Wallaroos team that was announced was not too surprising and inevitably from the squad selected, there would be a couple of debutants.

The squad only includes two hookers and two half-backs, one of each has not suited up for the Wallaroos before.

Those two, both from the Force, are half Samantha Wood and hooker Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke who will debut off the bench.

Probably the most interesting aspect is that coach Yapp has gone with a 6:2 split on the bench. It does not take much to guess Yapp is expecting a serious forwards battle and with a weather forecast of rain it could become a bit of a knock them down and grind it out type of game.

The back line as expected is predominantly Waratahs. The only two spots really up for discussion was 12 which was either going to be Reds’ Cecilia Smith or the Force’s captain Trilleen Pomare, Yapp has gone with Pomare.

Then the question was fullback, do you go with the Tahs young gun Caitlyn Halse or veteran Lori Cramer?

They play quite different styles, Yapp has gone for Cramer. With a 6:2 bench versatility is probably important Pomare can play 10, 12 and 15 while Cramer can play wing or fullback.

Then on the bench is Faitala Moleka who plays 10 and 15. So the bases are pretty well covered.

With the weather forecast, not sure if there will be much backline play.

Rain, hail or shine ????️

????️ Saturday 11 May 4:45pm AEST
????️ Allianz Stadium
???? @stansportau @9gem

— Wallaroos (@WallaroosRugby) May 9, 2024

Sounding like a broken record, the make or break for the Wallaroos will be in the forwards battle. As mentioned earlier Canada has a serious forward pack and a very strong set piece.

In their game against the USA, it was in the second half that Canada got the ascendency. Yapp looks to have loaded up the bench with some big boppers to match Canada later in the game.

The Wallaroos starting pack is no surprise, arguably the only point of contention could be that Eva Karpani is coming off the bench and not starting.

However, she did that very successfully in Wallaroos games last year and the Tahs this season.

The locks were a lock: Kaitlan Leaney and Michaela Leonard. The back row is in for a battle and a half.

While Ash Marsters spent most of the Super Rugby W in the centres selecting her at seven is not a surprise. Her work over the ball is going to be critical as will be her hard running.

Both Pesi Palu at six and Piper Duck at eight have had very good seasons.

The Wallaroos bench is a beast of a bench with props Sally Fuesaina and Karpani. Then Atasi Lafai, the player of the Super Rugby W final, and Leilani Nathan both play in the back row and lock.

Lastly is Tabua Tuinakauvadra, a youngster at 21, is the Brumbies’ big ball-carrying number eight who debuted for the Wallaroos last year.

The Wallaroos have a good team but they are up against a very good Canadian team.

The game is on both Stan and also 9GEM from 4.30pm AEST on Saturday


1. Brianna Hoy (NSW Waratahs) – 3 caps
2. Tania Naden (ACT Brumbies) – 10 caps
3. Bridie O’Gorman (NSW Waratahs) – 17 caps
4. Kaitlan Leaney (NSW Waratahs) – 15 caps
5. Michaela Leonard (c) (Western Force) – 22 caps

6. Siokapesi Palu (ACT Brumbies) – 6 caps
7. Ashley Marsters (Melbourne Rebels) – 26 caps
8. Piper Duck (NSW Waratahs) – 10 caps
9. Layne Morgan (NSW Waratahs) – 19 caps
10. Arabella McKenzie (NSW Waratahs) – 21 caps
11. Desiree Miller (NSW Waratahs) – 2 caps
12. Trilleen Pomare (Western Force) – 24 caps
13. Georgina Friedrichs (NSW Waratahs) – 19 caps
14. Maya Stewart (NSW Waratahs) – 8 caps
15. Lori Cramer (Queensland Reds) – 19 caps
16. Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke* (Western Force) – debut
17 Sally Fuesaina* (ACT Brumbies) – debut
18. Eva Karpani (NSW Waratahs) – 21 caps
19. Atasi Lafai (NSW Waratahs) – 9 caps
20. Leilani Nathan (NSW Waratahs) – 2 caps
21. Tabua Tuinakauvadra (ACT Brumbies) – 4 caps
22. Samantha Wood* (Western Force) – debut
23. Faitala Moleka (ACT Brumbies) – 6 caps
*Denotes potential debut

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