Wheelchair rugby preview: Canada vs. New Zealand

Canadians out of medal contention but looking to end on a high

Zak Mandell and Charles Aoki
Canada's Zak Madell goes against USA's Charles Aoki in the former's close loss in their second game. Canada now hope for fifth place, Megumi Masuda/World Wheelchair Rugby

Canada’s wheelchair rugby team looks to exit the preliminary stage on a high when they face New Zealand on Friday.

Coming off a disappointing loss to the United States in a close game, one that also saw them removed from medal contention, they are looking to bounce back in a big way.

Canadian assistant coach David Willsie knows they will go all out come game time.

“The boys aren’t in a good mood,” Willsie said after the Game Two loss. “I think they’re disappointed, a little angry, but this is the perfect sport to get rid of your frustration. (The team) is going to come out hard. There should be a lot of big hits and a lot of energy. Our guys got a lot of pride.”

Their close games with both the No. 2-ranked United States and No. 4-ranked Great Britain showed a lot of positives in Canada’s game, namely their offence.

The No. 5-ranked Canadians have scored 101 tries in their first two games of the tournament heading into Friday’s matchup. With New Zealand having conceded the most tries in the tournament so far, and with a try differential of minus 51, offence will definitely be a point of strength for them.

In terms of scoring, Zak Madell will be one to watch for the Canucks.

The 27-year-old has played every minute for Canada so far and has contributed 62 of the team’s tries in the tournament. Along with the direct point generation, he has also been key in the movement of the ball to set up his teammates.

Outside the scoring, another highlight from their first two games is their ability to pick pockets.

With eight steals so far in the tournament, Canada’s ability to create turnovers and generate tries from them will be a big factor versus New Zealand.

Despite being knocked out of medal contention, Canada can still play its way in to the Fifth-Sixth Classification game on Saturday.

Canada versus New Zealand tips off Friday at 8 p.m. JST, or 7 a.m. EST.

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Posted: Aug 26 2021 4:11 pm
Filed under: Parasports Rugby Sports Tokyo Paralympics