The second day of the Denmark Wheelchair Rugby Challenge sees a full slate of games, and all eight teams in action. By the end of Friday the semi final picture should be much clearer.
Game #3 #2 Canada vs. #5 Great Britain
These two teams always seem to have really entertaining games. They didn’t meet at the Canada Cup or at the Paralympics, but Britain did win their last match-up at a test event in April 2012. Since then both teams have gone through some changes, Britain is in the middle of a youth movement and has several players making their senior debut in Denmark, including Chris Ryan and Luke White. Canada has a youngster of their own in Zak Madell who broke out at the London Paralympics and is only getting better, in addition to arguably the most experienced core in the world with seven athletes who have been to two or more Paralympics including five-time Paralympian Garrett Hickling. Ten of their twelve athletes have Paralympic or World Championship experience. Britain’s willy veterans include Ross Morrison and Alan Ash who is returning from retirement Both teams have a number of lines they can run and are among the deepest in the world, which means this the potential to be a phenomenal match-up that will come down to team play rather than one-on-one battles.
Game #4 #1 Australia vs. #8(12) Denmark
In match-up between the tournament’s highest and lowest seeds, defending Paralympic champion Australia takes on the host Denmark. Denmark pulled off an upset in their first game beating Sweden by avoid mistakes and playing intelligent defense, however against Australia and the world’s best player in Ryley Batt, even a perfect game might not be enough. The Australians are the best in the world for a reason and their size, speed, and experience will be too much for the Danes to handle. Denmark though will be sure to put a fight and keep it as close as they can. This is a game to watch, if simply to marvel at the behemoth that is Batt and new side-kicker Chris Bond who will no doubt be even better than he was in London after spending a year training under Team USA Head Coach James Gumbert in Texas.
Game #5 #3 USA vs. #6 Sweden
The Americans open the tournament with a game against the Swedes, who are coming off a disappointing loss to Denmark in their opener. As the last team to to hit the floor expect the Americans to come out hard and really put the pressure on Sweden early. Sweden’s never really been able to stay close with the U.S. and I doubt tomorrow will be the day that changes. Expect both coaches to try out different lines and look out for the many new U.S. players who are at this tournament like the very tall Eric Chase who gives the Americans another tower of a 2.0 to pair with Joe Delagrave on either a four 2.0 line or a 3-2-2-1. Gumbert is one of the sports’ most knowledgeable and has an affinity to constantly change his defences to keep the opposition alert. He has many cards in his deck expect him to show a few, while using his poker face to keep some closer to his chests for later games or competitions.
Game #6 #4 Japan vs. #5 Great Britain
In a rematch of their elimination game from London is Team GB and Japan. Japan will looking to continue their recent history against Great Britain and get another win, while the young British side will try and turn the tables. The winner of this game will most likely find themselves in the semi-finals while the loser could be relegated to the consolation round. Having already played a game, the Japanese will be focusing on limiting their turnovers and taking advantage of the less experienced members of the British squad. While G.B. will be look to use their depth and multiple options to wear down a Japanese team that often only uses 4 or 5 players at most. G.B. has the option of running hi-los and balanced lines against the Japan’s dynamic duo, but Japan has a couple new players as well who could be wildcards. This should be one of the three best games of tomorrow.
Game #7 #2 Canada vs. #7 Belgium
If Belgium proved one thing in their game against Japan, its that they don’t give up and they play to their strengths, unfortunately their experience and savvy probably won’t do them much good, against the most experienced team in the tournament. Canada has a habit of not putting teams away early, so this one could definitely finish with a close score, but for Belgium the main focus for this game will to be play smart and keep building towards Zonals. The upset is highly unlikely here and I think both teams know that.
Game #8 #1 Australia vs. #6 Sweden
Similarly to their game against the U.S. I don’t see Sweden getting past Australia, a team that routed that in London, and one that has only added more strength to the squad with the addition of Curtis Palmer. Benoit is a good coach, and should have his guys prepared for that challenge, but I don’t think anyone outside of the Swedish has this game any closer than six goals. These are two teams that like to play real physical hard-hitting rugby though so expect many big hits and some bodies to hit the floor. In other words it’ll be very fun to watch, even if the score isn’t very close.
Game #9 #3 USA vs. #8(12)Denmark
This is the final pool game for the host, as they take on the defending world champions and Paralympic bronze medalists. The United States depth should be on display in this game and that look to gain momentum, to take into their Saturday game with the Aussies. The home crowd should be loud and enthusiastic for this one though, because while the U.S. might no longer be ranked number 1, they’re still at the top of every other team’s hit list. Denmark should at least be able to make the first half interesting but I don’t expect them pull off an upset on Day 2, as the USA should roll into their Sunday match-up with Australia.
Great Britain (0-0)
Follow me on Twitter @WheelNbragg for live tweets of the Canada vs. Great Britain, Australia vs. Sweden, and USA vs. Denmark games, if not more. You can find the broadcast here: http://2014wrwc.dhif.dk/FrontPage/?id=1392
Views and opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect and/or represent those of CWSA, BCWSA, Wheelchair Rugby Canada, Carleton University and/or any other individual and/or group.