The fourth-ranked Canadian women's rugby team has lost 11 straight to top-ranked England, including three defeats in the last year.
Most recently Canada was beaten 50-24 and 29-12 by the Red Roses in September in Exeter and London, respectively. That improved England's career record against the Canadians to 31-3-1.
Canada coach Kevin Rouet, however, believes his squad had the talent to take down the fully professional English side when they meet Friday at the WXV tournament in New Zealand.
"We had a good performance on offence in the first game (in September) and a good performance on defence in the second game, even with the red card (to flanker Gabrielle Senft)," said the French-born Rouet. "I think if everything goes well, if we get a good performance on offence and defence, we are able to beat England, for sure."
Rouet says the four weeks the Canadians have spent together recently will also help up their game against England.
"We know every week we're going to be way better than the week before," he said.
Canada last defeated the Red Roses in July 2016 in Salt Lake City (52-17). England has gone 73-5-0 since then, beaten four times by No. 2 New Zealand and once by No. 3 France.
The WXV is a new three-tier annual competition with the Canadians in the elite WXV 1 division. WXV 2 and 3 wrap up this weekend in South Africa and Dubai, respectively.
The WXV top tier features the top three teams from the Women's Six Nations (England, France, No. 6 Wales) and the top three from the Pacific Four Series. The Canadians qualified by finishing runner-up to New Zealand in the Pacific Four Series which wrapped up in July in Ottawa. No. 5 Australia was third.
Canada ran in six tries in a 42-22 victory over Wales on Saturday in Wellington with captain Sophie de Goede contributing 17 points via one try and six conversions.
England opened the tournament with a 42-7 win over Australia, using its lineout for a platform for four of its six tries.
France upset New Zealand 18-17 in the other first-round game, avenging its one point loss in last year's World Cup semifinal. The French win snapped the Black Ferns' 16-game winning streak.
On Saturday, it's New Zealand versus Wales and France versus Australia, also in Dunedin.
The host Black Ferns can still return to top spot in the world rankings for the first time since November 2020 if England lose by more than 15 points to Canada and New Zealand beats Wales.
Friday's game is at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, which opened in 2011 as the world’s first fully enclosed natural turf stadium. After England, the Canadians face France in Auckland on Nov. 3.
De Goede, one of eight Canadian starters who plays club rugby in England, says the Canadians are tired of losing to the Red Roses.
"It's really frustrating to keep coming out second," she said. "There's definitely a big push to get a win. I think this weekend's as good as any (chance). The mood in the camp is definitely very focused and intense."
Canada finished fourth at last year's World Cup, beaten 26-19 by England in the semifinal and 36-0 by France in the third-place match. Wales exited in the quarterfinals, falling 55-3 to eventual champion New Zealand.
The championship game loss ended England's 30-match win streak. The Red Roses have won all eight outings since then.
"Obviously Canada are a great team and they've given us some real tough fixtures in the pre-season," said interim England coach Louis Deacon. "They're a world-class team, a very physical and fit team, as we saw in the World Cup last year. I think they'll be very different to the team that we faced in September and I think they will pose threats to us."
Rouet has made three changes to his starting lineup with DaLeaka Menin, who earned her 50th cap against Wales off the bench, coming in at tighthead prop. Sarah-Maude Lachance shifts to fullback with Paige Farries replacing her on the wing.
Prop Alexandria Ellis and fullback Maddy Grant drop to the bench.
Deacon has made nine changes to his squad. One of the newcomers is fullback Ellie Kildunne, who scored three tries in her last two outings against Canada.
The Canadians will be keeping a close eye on the accomplished English lineout.
"We know they have a weapon with the lineout and the maul," said Rouet.
The Canadian maul has also been effective in the past, although it sputtered somewhat against the Welsh.
"It wasn't as good as it has been, previously," de Goede acknowledged. "And so we spent a lot of time this week working on our connections, our ball transfer, (our) commitment in the maul.
"The maul is definitely part of the brand of Canadian rugby. It's a weapon that we've had in our arsenal and we can't neglect it and just expect it to continue to roll over. So we spent some more time getting out detail on that right this week. Hopefully it's back to its usual self for the weekend."
McKinley Hunt, King City, Ont., Saracens (England); Emily Tuttosi, Souris, Man., Exeter Chiefs (England); DaLeaka Menin, Vulcan, Alta., Exeter Chiefs (England); Tyson Beukeboom, Uxbridge, Ont., Ealing Trailfinders (England); Courtney Holtkamp, Rimbey, Alta., Red Deer Titans Rugby; Gabrielle Senft, Regina, Stade Bordelais (France); Sara Svoboda, Belleville, Ont., Loughborough Lightning (England); Sophie de Goede (capt.), Victoria, Saracens (England); Olivia Apps, Lindsay, Ont., Lindsay RFC; Claire Gallagher, Caledon, Ont., University of Ottawa; Florence Symonds, Hong Kong, UBC; Alexandra Tessier, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., Exeter Chiefs (England); Shoshanah Seumanutafa, White Rock, B.C., UBC; Paige Farries, Red Deer, Alta., Worcester Warriors (England); Sarah-Maude Lachance, Victoriaville, Que., Lons Section Paloise (France).
Gillian Boag, Calgary, Capilano RFC; Brittany Kassil, Guelph, Ont., Guelph Redcoats; Alexandria Ellis, Ottawa, Saracens (England); Ashlynn Smith, Abbotsford, B.C., University of Calgary; Sara Cline, Edmonton, Leprechaun Tigers; Justine Pelletier, Rivière-du-Loup, Que., Stade Bordelais (France); Julia Schell, Uxbridge, Ont., Castaway Wanderers; Maddy Grant, Cornwall, Ont., Cornwall Claymores.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press