Marseille - Germany and Canada both took a step closer to the 2019 Rugby World Cup by starting with wins in Sunday's first-round of matches in the fortnight-long repechage tournament in Marseille.
The winner of the four-team tournament -- involving Canada, Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong -- will go into Pool B at next year's Rugby World Cup alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia and Italy.
Wing DTH van der Merwe scored a hat-trick of tries as Canada powered past Kenya with a thumping 65-19 win, then Germany, the lowest ranked of the four teams, squeezed past Hong Kong, the highest, for a hard-fought 26-9 victory.
Germany and Canada will square off next Saturday after Hong Kong play Kenya in the second round of matches.
"That was a huge effort - a real fight," said Germany captain, lock Matthias Poppmeier.
"It's all about getting ready to face Canada now."
After Canada, coached by ex-Wales captain Kingsley Jones, ran Kenya ragged, Germany, under ex-Lions defence coach Mike Ford, had to dig deep to beat Hong Kong.
China-born winger Salom Yiu, 30, was a constant threat on the right wing for Hong Kong and twice broke through the German defence, but his team could not make the most of his hard work.
Germany hooker Kurt Haupt, who was at Worcester Warriors last season, burst through tired tackles with 14 minutes left to claim the decisive try, when Hong Kong forward Kane Boucat was in the sin bin, to give the Germans a 19-9 lead.
Replacement forward Matthias Schoesser was then driven over by the German pack to claim a late second converted try to seal the win.
Hong Kong flyhalf Matthew Rosslee and Germany's No 10 Raynor Parkinson, both South African born, kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties each before the Germans pulled away.
Earlier, Canada underlined their status as the favourites in Marseille by powering past Kenya in a 10-try romp.
As well as Van der Merwe's treble, fullback Theo Sauder and lock Brett Beukeboom both scored two tries each.
Canada's powerful pack proved too strong for the lighter Kenyans as the North Americans pulled away with six converted second-half tries without reply.
The Canadians held a commanding 27-12 lead at the break as South African-born Glasgow Warriors wing Van der Merwe, 32, scored two first-half tries.
Flyhalf Gordon McRorie, who claimed 13 points with the boot, converted two of Canada's four tries in the opening 40 minutes as they took advantage of poor tackling.
Kenya got back in contention straight after the break when lock George Nyambua crashed over for a converted try to make it 27-19.
However, the Canadians quickly built a 20-point lead as No. 8 Tyler Ardron crossed, then Sauder touched down for the second of his two converted tries to make it 39-19 with 25 minutes left.
A flurry of Canadian tries followed as the Kenyans tired and Van der Merwe completed his hat-trick by powering over just before the final whistle.