Canada will look for big performances from their most experienced player and one of their newcomers Thursday when they kick off their World Cup campaign against Pool B opponents Italy.
At one end of the spectrum, veteran winger DTH van der Merwe will play his 13th World Cup match for the Canucks, while at the other, flyhalf Peter Nelson will make his tournament debut in just his third test for his adopted country.
(DTH Van Der Merwe of Canada)[World Rugby/Getty/Kyodo]
Though they will be playing with fresh legs against a side with one pool game already under their belts, the Canadians are expected to have a tough time against Six Nations side Italy.
South African-born van der Merwe says it is "an honor" to play for Canada at a fourth-straight World Cup, but he is only focused on pulling off an upset against the Azzurri at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium (Level 5 Stadium).
"I look forward to just doing my bit on the field. I don't want to take the personal accolades out of the game because ultimately it's all for us to win on (Thursday)," said the 33-year-old, who could break the Canadian record of 14 World Cup matches in Japan.
Nelson, a former Ireland under-20, qualified to play for the Canucks through his Toronto-born grandmother. He made his first trip to Canada to join the team just a few months before the tournament.
Head coach Kingsley Jones said the 26-year-old's experience of elite club rugby with Irish side Ulster was a precious commodity for Canada.
"He's been a professional rugby player for eight, nine years, and there's not many in our group, and not many Canadian rugby players you can say that about, unfortunately," Jones said.
Among that handful of Canadians with top-level professional experience is Tyler Ardron -- a backrower with New Zealand Super Rugby side the Chiefs -- who will lead the side in his third World Cup match.
He is determined to erase unhappy memories of the previous World Cup meeting between the two countries four years ago, when Italy prevailed 23-18 at Elland Road stadium in Leeds, England.
(Canada head coach Kingsley Jones)[World Rugby/Getty/Kyodo]
"It's pretty tough to forget that one...just to think back how close we were to getting that huge win," Ardron said Wednesday. "Obviously we don't want to go through that heartbreak again. We'll put everything out there tomorrow to right that one."
While the 14th-ranked Italians say they won't underestimate world No. 22 Canada, the Azzurri have made 10 changes following their 47-22 win over Namibia on Sunday.
Most notably, talismanic captain Sergio Parisse will rest, making way for New Zealand-born lock Dean Budd to skipper the side for the third time.
Italy head coach Conor O'Shea said the rotation had long been planned, with he and his staff confident the incoming players are capable of getting the job done on Thursday.
"It was a choice we made before the first match to balance out the teams over the two matches," O'Shea said.
(Sergio Parisse of Italy)[World Rugby/Getty/Kyodo]
"We did it during the warm-up matches. I have confidence in all our players and all our players are worth a place in the team."
After being picked for the 2015 squad but not playing a game, prop Andrea Lovotti will start his first World Cup match against Canada.
"This is the greatest dream I can think of," said the 30-year-old, who plays for Pro14 side Zebre Rugby. "Of all my aspirations, the highest one is to play at the World Cup as a member of the national team," Lovotti said.
Scrum coach Giampiero De Carli said the Azzurri are aware of threat from the underdog Canadians and will not take anything for granted in Fukuoka.
"Four years ago, we met a team that was very hard to compete against. We have to respect them and the way we do that is by being 100 percent ready for the match," De Carli said.